Are you late, early or on time?


I am always early or on time and I come from a family that is always late – very, very late.

We have discussed this several times and my family feel I am lucky that I am always on time (apparently not realising that this takes effort) and feel that their always being late is more stressful for them than my always being early is for me.

With my job, I could never be a chronic latecomer. I have to arrive and leave on time. I would, quite literally, lose my job if I was often or always late. One of my colleagues was once 10 – 15 minutes late three times in a row to a client and our boss received a letter of complaint from the client.

It does happen that I am late – probably two or three times a year – due to public transport chaos related to weather or technical failure. But because it happens so seldom, people are always very understanding. So I can understand people being late now and then due to circumstances beyond their control.

But I cannot understand how people can be chronically late. If you know you have to be somewhere at a certain time, surely you work backwards and figure out exactly when you have to wake up and when you have to leave? And stick to those times, no matter how interesting a programme may be on television or whether you suddenly realise that the car needs a wash. If the phone rings as you are out the door, don’t answer it.

If I have to be somewhere at 8am I wake up at 6am and have my routine (feed and see to cats, feed and see to myself, shower and get ready, catch the relevant bus and train, allowing time for rush-hour, allow time to get through security etc). I am generally in place at 7.55am. Generally I am about 10 minutes early. It may not show, but it takes effort.

If my family has to be somewhere at 8am they wake up at 6am, go back to sleep, push snooze a couple of times more, get sidetracked watching television or reading the newspaper, start talking to the neighbour over the garden fence and end up arriving at 8.30am at the earliest. Generally they are one to two hours late for everything.


An example would be that we are going somewhere for the day. The previous evening there is an announcement that we will be leaving at 8am. The next day I am ready and waiting by 7.45am, not wanting to inconvenience anyone by being late. My family is still in bed. By 10am they are complaining that they hate being rushed (by me of course). They eventually leave at about 11.30am.

My thoughts about this are that I don’t care if anyone is late on their own time. It is their life and they can live it the way they choose. But when their timekeeping shows lack of respect for my time as well as their own, then it is my problem as well as theirs.

I feel the same about people smoking. I don’t mind if other people smoke. Their health is their concern. But when their smoking affects MY health because they want to smoke in my house or blow smoke in my face at the bus stop, then it is a no-no.

Over the weekend and on holiday when I have no places to be and no time to keep I also dawdle on as I please. I wake up when I want, do what I want when I want, and chores that need to be done can wait until the next day. I get going and go out when I get around to it and I can be hours later than I thought I would be. I sometimes end up in my pyjamas all day despite having vague plans to go out and do some shopping.

But when I have time to keep I have to be disciplined and I just don’t understand how some people don’t realise that being punctual does not just happen. It takes discipline. Like many other things – losing weight, studying, keeping fit, eating healthily.

I must add also that my family always being late can be a good thing for me too. If we are out shopping and they have to be somewhere to meet someone at a particular time but I need advice on what shoes to buy or would like to stop and get some body lotion at my favourite shop, my family will never make me feel rushed because they have time to keep. They will stop and help me choose my shoes (no matter how long it takes) and come with me to buy my body lotion. And for that I am endlessly grateful and I try to think of that every time I am waiting for them. And it probably makes me a giant hypocrite because I use their chronic tardiness to my own advantage when it suits me.

So, are you always late or always early?



Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

10 thoughts

  1. I try to be on time or early. Usually this is achieved by aiming to be early, then minor delays happen and I arrive on time. Once I had a dentist appointment and was running late so I rang them from the car to say I might be late; I then engaged warp drive (set mode ruthless enabled) and arrived 2 minutes before my original appointment time, to much hilarity.
    My partner is completely the opposite way and regularly drives me up the wall by operating on a different temporal paradigm. “I’ll be 5 minutes” frequently turns into 30; we’ve even had arguments when I get home from a trip because my other half is late collecting me from the station (after n days in London, and a minimum 2.5 hour train journey home all I want to do is get in the car and get home, sit down and have a cup of tea and say hello to the dogs. To try to assist with that aim, I generally advise home base of my expected arrival time *when the tickets are booked* (usually sending a meeting request!), then when I get on the train I call to say “on the way”; then 2-3 times during the journey (more if the train is running late) I will call or text updated ETA estimates culminating in a final call some 12 minutes from home at the final station. And *still* more often than not I walk out of the station into the cold and rain and have to stand there waiting for up to 5 minutes for my other half to arrive in the car. I sometimes wonder: how much notice of a scheduled event do most people reasonably need in order to rendezvous at the appointed time?
    And now I’d better go and find out why the 14:30 meeting hasn’t started because it’s 14:36 and nobody from the office has called me yet… 🙁

  2. I always aim to be on time and I’m normally early for most things. It is a throw back to when I did shift work. When you have worked a 9 hour night shift, you want to the guys coming in on day shift to be early so you can get home, beat the rush hour and get to bed for some rest.

  3. Always early or on time. Like you Janet do not understand chronic lateness. It is said if you were an induced baby you will always strive to be early or if in Human Design you have splenic authority, which I have you are always on time!

  4. I have a relative who has been late his entire life and I can honestly say I’ve never heard of him ever being on time.”A minute spent waiting is a wasted minute” is his rationale for never being early, and being late is always a situation beyond his control. Now are you ready? He is a U.S.Naval Academy graduate, was a vice-admiral, and spent almost 40 years in the navy. How he accomplished that is beyond me, and everyone who knows him, but it works for him, still.

  5. I’m always early. Usually 10-15 minutes, I get stressed when it’s only 5 🙂 So I tend to see it your way.
    With me it’s a learned thing rather than something coming naturally. My mother made sure very early on that I am always on time, and since I am a person who does sometimes tend to forget time altogether, I take great pains to be careful when I have to be somewhere at a specific time.
    So I feel you in that regard 🙂

  6. I am able to be on time most of the time but it is a huge effort on my part. Left to my natural instincts, I am terribly late to everything. In spite of my best efforts, I have colossal failures with some regularity, almost all of which can not be blamed on external causes. I think that most people who are late all the time have various issues which cause their lateness. I can tell you, without any doubt in my mind, that most people who are late are NOT being rude or lacking respect for you; the issues are entirely their own and they feel terribly embarrassed and frustrated by their lateness. I know I do. I arrive late, rushed, flushed, out of breath, and feeling absolutely terribly guilty and frustrated. When you have these issues, once you already know you’re going to be late the final external pressure to get moving is lost and a brief lateness turns into a very significant one. I don’t think that tardy people should be excused for their lateness at all; that would only exacerbate the problem. But I do plead with punctual people to try to be patient with tardy people. And please do not interpret it as lack of respect. I am sure that is the case in some circumstances but I think it is the exception rather than the rule.

  7. Always early!
    I am about 20-30 minutes early at work every morning so l usually get up at 5.30 am in order to get at work at 7.40 latest.
    When l have to take a train or a plane (twice a week) l usually arrive at the station or airport about 40 minutes early.
    I can’t afford to be late at work as the international or European committees won’t be delayed for me and the other 65 translators/interpretors won’t switch off their microphones because l haven’t turned up. Also once a session has started it is impossible to enter the room for security reasons and though we are 2 in a booth, we both have a distinct function and can’t do both jobs if one is missing.
    I must have got used to being early at work that l am also very early all the time. I can’t stand people who are late as l find it rude and a lack of respect. When l have to meet someone l usually give them 10 minutes to turn up before leaving. Life is too short and my time too precious to waste it waiting for people who don’t care about being on time!

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