Dee Chadwick
02 Apr 2017
I am one of those people who is always early. This is largely because I feel it is very rude and ignorant to be late for an appointment, for a meeting, simply for meeting with friends. This is how I was brought up. How is it that some people feel that times are set for everyone but them?


I need to set my comments above within the context of past experience. On one hand, I still remember the Head Teacher at my Junior School standing up and telling us that Scott had had an accident and been taken to hospital.  Scott had been knocked down when running across the road as he was late for school. The Head then said that he would prefer that we were a bit late for school rather than not make it in to school at all because of an accident. Could I have used this as an excuse for tardiness? Maybe I could, but instead it meant that I (who didn’t have to cross any roads to get to school) always ensured that I left plenty of time for my walk.

When I had a daily commute up the M6 to Warrington each day, this applied to my drive.  I was well aware that I could get held up by traffic, be delayed by the swing bridge swinging – somehow I was fine with this if it was a big boat going by, but irrationally annoyed if I and lots of other drivers were held up in rush hour for a boat, the only bit of which I could see was the top few inches of a mast! OK, there were the occasions when there was a large crash on the motorway which led to us parking up for some considerable time. At least when mobile phones arrived on the scene, I could phone to give my apology. If delayed at home, I would hurry in order to leave at my set time.  This often meant putting on a quick dab of lippy etc in the school car park and a cuppa once I got in. On one occasion, I had had a clear run through after a quick departure. I arrived at the school to be met by the caretaker who stood at the door chuckling. Always good to start your day with a laugh – even at my expense.  My rush out had led to me forgetting to swap to my shoes and I was about to meet a child’s parents (for the first time) sporting pink fluffy slippers!! Despite driving, and unloading my kit from my car boot I just hadn’t realised – and I used to be trusted with children!!


As I said, I find people who are consistently late very annoying and basically downright rude. Why should I make allowances because ‘It’s just *** and you know they are always late?’ Why should I have to hold back on a meal that is ready to be served as they haven’t bothered to honour us with their presence yet? I can be sorely tempted to sit down and start without them, though having done this in the past, I found that it didn’t alter future timing and simply made me feel like the rude one! Alternatively, why should I have, in order to avoid holding up a meal, to tell them that we will be eating 15, 30 minutes earlier than we actually are in order for them to be ‘on time’? This tends to be a ploy that only works once!

It is my responsibility to be aware of my negative feelings around those who are consistently late. I accept that. Surely then, isn’t it the responsibility of the late-comer to accept their timing difficulties, and if others are involved, set out to not let it happen? Though you do get the feeling at times that they feel that they are so important, and what they were doing was so important that we mere minions will quite happily wait for them. Wrong. If it is good enough for the Queen to be on time …. I rest my case.

If offered at all, the ‘sorry I’m late’ often seems to come out as a statement rather than a heartfelt apology. I well remember having driven many miles for a week-end centered around a specific event we were to attend. I was ready for the off. As a stranger to the area, I didn’t know how long it would take to get to there, or even how we were going to get there. Meanwhile the hostess was on her phone, lap top, doing her hair and the response to my ‘shouldn’t we be leaving?’ was batted off, dismissed. Eventually, we set off – at a trot, eventually arriving at the event location to find it over and done with. I was not well pleased, but received no apology.


There can be many causes/reasons for people being habitually late and when it happens, it can be across the board for social as well as professional meetings, appointments, functions. The fact that there are many causes makes it difficult to find a (one fit all) solution to what was a problem for 15-20% of US citizens in 2006 (unable to find any more recent figures.)

For some, it is simply a habit, possibly begun in childhood when they found that they could leave it to the last minute to leave for school, and therefore also to get out of bed.

There are those who feel that being early is a waste of their time; that it is an inefficient use of their time; or they feel that they are intruding on someone else’s time if early. This then gradually slips from being just on time, to being late by leaving a bit later next time … and so on.

Some tardy folk appear to get an adrenaline high caused by the physical rush of their need to get where they should already have been, whilst others struggle with the stresses of getting from A to B when they should have been at B half an hour ago.

There are those who feel that the number of hours in a day are surrounded by elastic which will allow them to magically squash in all of the things that they have on their literal or metaphorical list of things to be done.

There are those who seemingly enjoy being late as this puts them as the centre of attention, feeling important knowing that there have been others waiting for them.

There remain those who have self-destructive tendencies and, for reasons known only to themselves, are simply late; or those who lay the blame (even when not appropriate) on factors outside of themselves such as traffic.


So how can such people help themselves?

Based on the above research, simply keep your eye on the clock, or there are alarms on phones that you can make use of if you don’t trust your watch, internal time keeping or ability to estimate just how much time you need in order to not be late.

You set things out the night before to cut down on preparation time the next day. Don’t change your mind about your outfit – be firm and keep to your previously made decision rather than try on different things. You can hit the day running and set strategies that work for you for getting things done on time, whilst avoiding falling into the ‘just one more’ trap as in one more message, one more coffee etc.

You don’t respond to messages within a set period of time before you are due to leave – nobody is so important that such messages can’t wait, though they often like to believe that they are.  These are often the same people who I call ‘clip board’ people – they frequently appear busy whilst it is, in fact, others who are doing the work. In fact, their organisational skills leave a lot to be desired – so maybe this includes organising how they manage their time?

You have a reality check on how long your journey will actually take – including factors such as getting your car onto the road and ready for the off with such as de-icing in winter, getting to the station etc etc and factor in the time of day you are travelling. Don’t do this as you are about to leave, as it’s too late by then and you simply confirm that you will be late. Rather, the previous night, earlier in the day to allow you to move your time of departure forward whilst you still have wiggle time.

You make the time you have ‘gained’ by being early useful to you so that you reframe it as a positive rather than a negative – catch up on texts etc, check over information for your meeting, chat informally with colleagues you will be meeting with, spend the time chatting with the friends you have gone to see and offer to help with last minute things there.


Maybe tardy folk either don’t perceive that they have a problem as others seemingly accept the way that they are, or have tried the above strategies to no avail.

Maybe they are people pleasers who feel that they just have to keep talking to the person on the other end of the phone ignoring the fact that they are probably displeasing others - maybe they have an in-built pecking order for these people, with this being either a conscious or unconscious driver.

Maybe they feel that they are wasting their time if they are early, so this need to not be early reinforces their lateness? Just the opposite to the likes of me, though I do always have a tablet, book or note book to make use of any waiting time, so that it isn’t wasted. I hate wasting time, so will often leave early to avoid sitting in a queue of traffic and slot in a supermarket visit if a store is available nearby, or sit in the car park reading or making notes for future blogs!

A recent study carried out by Waldun and McDaniel in 2016 came up with the concept of TBPM  (Time-Based Prospective Memory) in which they gave people a set amount of time for completing a task. They were also given the option of checking a clock, with some subjects taking the opportunity to do this whilst others apparently became so engrossed in the task that they didn’t. This can be equated with losing track of time when on the phone, social media when the time for leaving for an appointment approached and then passed. They simply forgot to keep tabs on the time. The research also found considerable differences in the ability to estimate how long tasks would take to complete, thus compounding the timing problem for some of the participants.

As stated, there can be poor at estimation of the time required for activities. This is especially true if attempting to multi-task and it is now becoming recognised that multi-tasking is an inefficient use of time. It can be achieved if one of the tasks does not demand much thought, for example, making it achievable to walk and talk on the phone, though not to write and hold a simultaneous conversation. A study carried out at the University of Utah in 2013 showed that those who choose to multitask most often are, sadly, those who are worst at it! I wonder if they admit to it??

Consistently late behaviour is ingrained and neuroscience shows that such ingrained behaviour patterns are strengthened when repeated time after time as the brain’s neural pathways actually change. Nihil desperandum. Recent research shows us that such pathways can be changed again.

Linda Sapadin (psychologist) says that ‘You literally have to train your mind to approach things differently than its current default way of thinking.’ This being a change that doesn’t take place overnight.


Maybe I should be more lenient with the perpetual latecomers who currently often send my blood pressure soaring – do they actually realise how negatively they affect those of us who may have gone to great lengths to be on time? They have no idea of the paddling that went on under our water in order to achieve this, just as I have no idea of theirs. Are they trying to change their habits? Is expecting a persistently tardy person to actually arrive punctually as bad as expecting someone who is overweight to change their eating pattern and be slimmer overnight? I feel that I am back to it being a problem when others are affected by the behaviour. If it affects only them – no problem…

Maybe I need to bear in mind the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt who said ‘I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.’


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Totally agree with you Denise. If I am running a meeting/rehearsal/event I have a policy of starting on time so that latecomers FEEL late. Otherwise they are late again next time on the basis that we hadn't started on time.
Thanks for commenting Alwyn - good for you sticking to your set time. The trouble is that many seem completely unaffected by the fact that they are late and may have affected others and their plans! Think am turning into a grumpy old woman around the issue too! Dee

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