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The Real Problem With Being Late


Robby

After doing extensive interviews (okay, interrogations) with many people who have a different relationship with punctuality, I’ve come to some stunning conclusions. There are, broadly, three reasons people are late. But that’s not what matters.

Punctuality
© Flickr User Lauren Hammond

Reason #1: Life Happens

No matter how much you try, it is impossible to prepare for the unexpected. That is the definition of “unexpected” after all—something you didn’t think could happen. You can leave early but still run into traffic or have car trouble. You can get lost or have bad directions. You can misread your own calendar. Or, another person can make you late. Things go wrong, and none of us are perfect.

In short, life happens.

Reason #2: Extreme Optimism

If you’ve made the trip to this location before in exactly 12 minutes, hitting every light green and encountering no traffic, you might use that as your estimate—even if you didn’t realize how lucky you were. Or, you might think you have time to straighten a few things around your home before heading out the door, unaware that it’s taking you much longer than anticipated. Optimism is a wonderful quality in many situations, but it can backfire when you’re trying to be somewhere on time.

If you believe you can do it, you might be right. Or you might be wrong.

Reasons #3: Indifference (aka Self-Importance)

I’m not saying this about you, personally. But we all know there are people out there who have a high opinion of themselves. They don’t arrive at the appointed time because they are much too important. After all, the meeting isn’t going to start without them anyway. They have things to do, and if the schedule changes, other people will just have to deal with it. This is their world, we just live in it!

If you think you matter more than other people, you’re not late. Life moves when you do.

The Problem is Perception

You probably find yourself falling into one of these three categories in any given situation, and it’s also likely that just one is the one that best describes your personality. But that’s not what matters, not at all.

In reality, the people you are meeting perceive you as late for some reason. If they are in a good mood, it might be #1. If they are feeling charitable it might be #2—and furthermore, it’s possible they sympathize with you as it’s something they’ve done before. Of course, if the reason is “extreme optimism” and you’re consistently late, the other people might judge you for not making a change.

And finally, it’s possible that other people see you as #3—as too self-involved to bother with being on time. That’s a recipe for resentment.

In Summary

Is it good to be on time? Of course. Everything runs smoother when people keep their word and be where they said they would be when they said they would be there.

What happens when you’re late? The world doesn’t end. But other people do start to develop their view of you. Maybe you can convince them that it was circumstances beyond your control. But you’ll never know what they really think.

See you soon. Don’t be late.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Wed, March 14 2018 » Uncategorized

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