Running late – Life as a bus

An epidemic of tolerance as though being late is always outside our control

Poor timekeeping
I have to confess that in my time I have indeed been guilty of some erratic time keeping. I was very much  ” a one more thing before I go”  type of girl  and a great subscriber to the phrase “fashionably late“.  But then I worked for a manager who would monetize  the communally wasted time whenever any of his team was late for a meeting.   It was actually quite shocking. If we had all been held financially accountable,  our pay cheques would have been significantly lighter.   When I transitioned into sales I had to replace ” better late than never ” with  “never late is better”.  Arriving late isn’t actually a recognised commercially winning strategy.

Running late
I have become acutely aware in recent weeks how erratic general timekeeping seems to have become and how easily  the phrase  “running late “,  has slid into our daily business and social vernacular, including my own. Very often people apologise, (sometimes they don’t), explaining that either they, someone, or something else was “running late“, as though they were a bus service,  entirely passive and had nothing to do with it at all. Clearly there are always unforseen circumstances. Only recently I scooted into an important meeting with only  minutes to spare,  because a journey scheduled to take 10 minutes,  took 45,  due to traffic congestion.  But, I wondered, are we all becoming more tolerant of  poor time keeping,  as if  we are communally raising our hands saying ”  I know life is tough for you  – but it’s Ok – I don’t mind waiting here wasting my own time….. I’m a bus too ?”  Whatever happened to William Shakespeare’s “Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late?”

Consequences
A candidate was recently late for an interview. He hadn’t properly checked the company’s address the night before and arrived 15 minutes late,  having been to the wrong building at the designated hour. What should have been a walk in the park (he was the preferred candidate) became an interview nightmare, as his anxiety levels rose and he fluffed even routine questions. A hiring manager similarly kept a candidate waiting so long that she eventually left and then withdrew from the process.

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out,  tells us that the first step is to make promptness a conscious priority,  but also we need to  gain an understanding into why we’re always late.   Poor timekeeping can  be very costly, both directly  but also via damage to our reputations suggesting we are unreliable,  untrustworthy and/or disorganised. The reasons she maintains tend to fall into 2  categories: technical or psychological.

Technical Difficulties

Life as a bus

If we are always late but at different time then, the likelihood is that it is the result of  bad planning and under estimating how long things will take.

Morgenstern advises establishing patterns by keeping a time log of all tasks and finding out exact how much time each task takes. Then factor in a margin for some unforseen contingency.

Inability to say no
Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears believes there are deeper underlying implications of poor timekeeping,  which are linked to procrastination. Very often many of the difficulties come from lack of confidence and an inability to say no,  or even to tell another person we have another appointment in our diaries.

Do you choose to be late?
If we are always late by the same amount of time, there could be a number of reasons – but no doubt, it’s about us!  We might be:

  • Rebellious   – not doing what’s expected
  •  A crisis maker   – need an adrenalin rush to get going
  • Attention seeker  – which comes with being last through the door and going through the apology ritual.
  • Power playing  – I’m more important than you are,  sending a message of disrespect
  • Avoider – you don’t want to meet the person, or attend the meeting, so leave it until the very last-minute.

During a recession when employers are tightening up on time keeping with threats of dismissal after the second or third offence, there are so many challenges in the workplace, it seems crazy not to take responsibility for the things we can control ourselves. It’s also really rude!

So next time instead of saying something ” ran late“, perhaps we should all just be honest and admit to being bad planners,  power players, attention seekers or avoiders.

Or is the alternative to opt for carrying on living our lives as buses?

6 thoughts on “Running late – Life as a bus

  1. Wally Bock

    “Lateness is rudeness” was my mother’s line. There are some cultural tweaks to that idea but if you waste other people’s time by showing up late it’s a simple statement that you think your time is more important than their time. That’s rude.

    Reply
  2. Bengt Wendel

    Great post, timekeeping does matter. Occasionally late – for external reasons – is OK but some people are always late.

    Wally mentions my key issue with those arriving late – their time is to them more important than the sum of the time of those waiting for you.

    Reply
  3. Linda Sapadin

    Dorothy – Valuable, well written article.

    Though serial lateness may be unacceptable, it’s also indicative of a self-defeating pattern of behavior that people find difficult to change.

    I am the author of the book Master Your Fears that you mentioned in your article. What might be even more useful to your readers is my new book, How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age.

    Since procrastination and chronic latenenss are driven by strong emotions and tenacious personality traits, it’s tough to change. If it were a simple matter like “just do it”, surely mom’s nagging and teacher’s scoldings would have cured people of it years ago.

    My new book describes 6 personality patterns – Perfectionist, Dreamer, Worrier, Crisis-Maker, Defier and Pleaser and offers a tailor-made change program for each style.

    If your readers would like more info about the 6 styles or want to take a personality quiz, may I suggest they visit my website http://www.SixStylesofProcrastination.com

    s

    Reply

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