When You’re Running Late

One of the downsides of writing a book on time management is that people expect you to be on time for things. Usually I am. I think through how much time I need to do something based on how long it has actually taken in the past, as opposed to how long it took under perfect circumstances. Fact: there will always be traffic on Friday nights at rush hour. Traveling takes longer when it’s raining. So why would I assume that a distance you can drive in 20 minutes at 5:30AM would take the same amount of time at 5:30PM on Friday, in the rain? And even then, I build in a buffer.

However, sometimes lateness happens. Yesterday was one of those days. I left the house at 7:30AM, which gave me time to deal with the traffic on I-76 and make my train on time. But then, as my train toward NYC was pulling into Newark, the conductor announced that there was a disabled train in front of us. Eventually, most of us decided to get off at Newark, and take the PATH train into the city. That worked fine, but then I had to take the subway from that stop to my meeting at Portfolio, and consequently, I was 25-30 minutes late. Ugh. Embarrassing. And then, since we had a certain volume of material we had to cover, I was late to my next meeting. Because I didn’t want to shortchange that next meeting, with someone graciously agreeing to meet on my schedule and at a location that was convenient to me, I was late to my next commitment as well. Fortunately, so was everyone else, given that the President had been in NYC for the UN meeting at that point too, and traffic was not moving.

So, what do you do in these circumstances, when you’re just constantly running late? I know when I am the victim of lateness (as opposed to its perpetrator) I really appreciate information about how long the wait will be. So I made sure to send emails/texts ahead of time explaining how late I was running. I also know that I appreciate apologies and a straight forward explanation that doesn’t try to pass blame. I have been very impressed with doctors who do this sincerely (“I apologize you had to wait. This is not how we like our practice to run,” even when it turns out there was a medical emergency before me). So those were forthcoming too. And, of course, you can try to learn from the situation. Like that the annual UN general session in NYC is a good reason to stay away from the east side.

What do you do when you’re running late?

2 thoughts on “When You’re Running Late

  1. Laura
    Star Henderson of Army Wife Talk Radio is a friend of mine and thinks you are terrific. She suggested I check out your blog. Great post! I love your suggestion of doing damage control by informing people that you are going to be late, instead of avoiding it. Also, I agree about the power of the apology. I actually wrote an article on my blog called The Masterful Apology.

    I think the other thing I TRY and do when I am late is put it in perspective. Late happens. It doesn’t mean I have to put my body into full alert and stress out. In another day, lateness of today won’t matter. We should be careful not to beat up our bodies with anxiety over something small like lateness.


    1. @Maria – thanks for reading the blog! That is true that lateness isn’t the end of the world. I always feel mortified about it, but I have been horribly late in the past to, say, a dinner with friends, and they still hang out with me. Go figure!

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