Be on time

Today I am going to talk about being on time. It’s really important to show up when you say you are going to. I am not talking about being there to the second of when you say you will be. I am talking about being within a reasonable amount of time. What is reasonable? Well, that depends on a lot of things. If you are coming from some distance away, more leeway is reasonable. If you are coming from 15 minutes away, I would say less is reasonable. If you have to manage a small child, or you have some condition you have to deal with, more leeway is appropriate.

I know that everyone runs into a problem that is out of their control once in a while. Prior to cell phones, my husband and I were once 2 hours late for dinner because of an accident on the freeway – we got caught up in the horrible traffic snarl it caused, and there was not a thing we could do about it. It was such a mess that we couldn’t even manage to get off the freeway and find a phone. All we could do was hope that the people we were meeting had heard about the accident and traffic problems, and figure that is where we were.

That is what I would call an aberration. We are generally on time, and got stuck in this mess and could not do anything about it – it happens to everyone sometimes.

What I am really writing about is people who can never mange to be on time, no matter what. You know the ones I am talking about. They set the time for their schedule, and still can’t manage to make it within 15 minutes of the set time. If you don’t leave until 5 minutes after you are supposed to be there, you’re not going to be on time.We have all had those friends – you know, the ones who you just know will be at least 15 minutes late for anything you have set up with them. You make allowances for them, and eventually don’t even rush to meet them, because you just know they are going to be late.

Here’s the thing. When you make allowances for people like that, you are training them how to treat you – you are teaching them that it is acceptable behavior. I am certainly not saying that you should confront them every time they are late, and demand an explanation and apology. I am suggesting that you don’t necessarily always say that it is okay though. The person left waiting is actually the aggrieved party, not the person who is late. You don’t have to be mean to them, but you also don’t have to make everything okay for them either. If it is a dinner date, perhaps you go ahead and eat without them. They are welcome to eat when they get there, and you don’t make an fuss about it, but you don’t wait for them either.

The other thing that may happen is that one day you may snap, and just be done with them. It may be understandable, but it is not really fair because you never let them know how much it bothered you, or that this day was coming. They had no chance to change their ways.

If you are one of those people who can’t seem to make it to anything on time, consider this: what you are really saying to people, whether you mean to or not, is that your time is way more important than their time. Is that really what you think? Being on time says that you respect the person you are meeting. It also builds good will for those times when being late is unavoidable.

I learned this from a very smart orchestra conductor: Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.

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