Being late is not the end of the world

I write about time management a lot. I’m also one of those comically punctual people who don’t get the idea of social lateness. If you invite me to a party at 8…I’ll probably be there at 8.

So being late to anything puts me in quite a state. I don’t like to scramble when I’ve already made plans. So I get agitated. But what I’ve started to realize lately is that the agitation can be a problem in its own right.

Take today, for instance. I was flying to Indianapolis, and had to connect in Cleveland. My first flight was late, and I had a very tight connection. So I was sitting there ruminating on missing my connecting flight. Then I realized that there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. If I missed it, I missed it. This was not going to be in my power to control. And if I did miss it? I’d get a later flight. Earth would not crash into the sun. There was no point being unhappy for the entire hour on the plane about whether we’d get there in time or not.

Being late is not the end of the world. In certain situations, like if you’re meeting someone, and you’re 15 minutes late because you could have left earlier but didn’t, I think that’s rude, and I’m especially agitated when I’m the at-fault party in those situations. But I’m often amazed how understanding people are about such things. There’s no point getting worked up, or rushing. Then you make mistakes or apologize in flummoxed ways. Agitation rarely helps anything. 

Are you a punctual person? Have you always been one?

6 thoughts on “Being late is not the end of the world

  1. That idea of taking “what’s the worst that can realistically happen” and realizing it’s not all that bad is a technique in cognitive behavioral therapy and can be used in many situations.
    Re: lateness itself, there are big cultural differences across the country about its acceptability. I try to keep them in mind when dealing with other people.

  2. I’m also a comically punctual person who is often the first person at a party, even when I try to be fashionably late.

    But when I travel, I can be more zen. Once I get myself to my first airport/bus station/whatever on time, I can usually just go with whatever happens- particularly in Western countries where I understand the rules and how to buy myself out of trouble (e.g., get a cab to a hotel so I can sleep if I’ve missed the last flight of the day).

  3. I am late for everything… and honestly I don’t have this on my list as a character flaw –even though I am in sales… but I do notice that it irritates several of my friends.. I have shxt to do and I do the best I can… and you folks who are chronically early or on time.. find you stressful !

  4. I’m not as punctual as I’d like to be. I’m trying to change, and I’ve about halfway succeeded. There’s still room for improvement. I used to think it wasn’t that big a deal until I worked for someone who was chronically late and never claimed anything but her “busy schedule” as an excuse. I don’t mind lateness when there’s a good reason, but I found that to be disrespectful when I was repeatedly on the other end of it and kept waiting.

    1. @Karen – It certainly can be disrespectful. I do understand that some cultures treat time differently, but the people I know who are chronically late aren’t members of those cultures. I guess a less negative explanation is that they are wildly optimistic. My husband, for instance, persisted in believing that a certain place in New Jersey was 50 minutes from our old place in NYC even though, as far as I could tell, this was only true at 3 a.m.

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