A Man Is Punctual: The Reasons You’re Late and How to Always Be on Time

by Brett & Kate McKay on July 18, 2012 · 79 comments

in A Man's Life, On Etiquette

Read Part I: The Importance of Being on Time

Being punctual is a skill any man can master; it doesn’t take any special talents or abilities. But even if you feel it’s an important trait to develop, you may still struggle with being on time and find the habit of always running late extremely difficult to overcome. Each time you’re tardy, you re-commit to becoming more punctual, and yet soon find yourself running behind once again. Why is this?

It’s not strictly a matter of one’s busyness; the busiest people are often the most punctual, while those with the least to do sometimes struggle the most with being on time. It’s also not that late people don’t set aside enough time to arrive on schedule; even when they give themselves more time, they simply end up taking more time, and still arrive late. And contrary to the popular conception of later-comers as lazy slackers who willfully disregard the needs of others, most folks who struggle with being late do want to be punctual. But telling themselves to “just do it” isn’t effective, as there are often deeper, unconscious issues and motivations at work. Those who are consistently late, may have a tendency to:

Misperceive the passage of time. Studies show that people who are consistently late underestimate how much time has passed. So for example, you need to be somewhere at noon and start getting ready at 11:15, thinking you have plenty of time. You’re dawdling in the bathroom, feeling like about 20 minutes have elapsed, but when you stick your head out the door to look at the clock, you’re surprised to see it’s actually 11:45, and begin running around in a panic, trying to get out the door.

Underestimate how long things will take. Those who are consistently late typically underestimate how long it will take to do something, even when there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary…since they do that thing every single day, and it always takes longer than they think it will. What happens to the man who is not punctual is that they get stuck on the best time they ever did something in, even if it was an anomaly. For example, once when you went into work on a holiday, and there was little traffic, and you caught almost every green light, it took you 12 minutes to get there. So now whenever you think of how long it will take to get to work, 12 minutes is sealed in your mind. And yet day after day your commute takes 17-20 minutes. And thus day after day you’re about five minutes late to work.

Engage in “magical thinking.” When it comes to time, the unpunctual are perennial optimists. They believe they can do a whole bunch of things in a limited amount of time, or that each thing won’t take as long as it really will. This kind of magical thinking is sometimes the product of an indulged childhood, which gave them the idea that all things are possible if you believe they are, and that the natural laws of time and space that restrain others don’t apply to them. They see the world as they want it to be, not as it is. Being punctual involves trade-offs – I’ve got to stop doing that and start doing this, but magical thinkers want to have it all.

Procrastinate in general. People who struggle with being late, are often prone to procrastination in all areas of their lives. This may be because they are more easily distracted than others, need a deadline to get motivated, and/or enjoy the “rush” of trying to beat the clock. (See more below.)

Be easily distracted. Those who are easily distracted have difficulty being punctual because on the way from point A to point B, they get pulled into point C. You’re headed out the door and figure it wouldn’t hurt to check your email before you go, and then as you check your email, you decide to check Facebook too, and before you know it, ten minutes have slipped away.

Need an external deadline to get motivated. Some people feel they work best under pressure, and can’t get going until a deadline is looming. At which point they go into mildly-panicked, hyper-drive mode.

Enjoy the satisfaction of rushing to beat the clock. For those who are easily bored, enjoy taking risks, and seek bouts of intense stimulation, the rush to beat the clock can feel like an exciting race. A dump of adrenaline makes you feel alert and purposeful – your focus narrows to solving this one problem: how to get where you’re going punctually. It can feel like the overtime period of an important game: it’s down to the wire and the stakes are high. When you win, it’s terribly thrilling and oh-so-satisfying. But just like a game, you can lose too: you forget your homework assignment, give a frazzled presentation at work, or leave your kid waiting at the curb. Those who are late because they enjoy the rush of trying to beat the clock subconsciously set their own fires to then enjoy the thrill of trying to put them out.

Feel anxiety. Studies have shown that folks who struggle with being late tend to be more anxious in general than other people. They may use the rush described above as a way to keep themselves from thinking about their nervousness. If you’re worried about how things are going to go when you meet someone or have to make a presentation, running late takes your mind off what’s to come and focuses it only on trying to make it there punctually.

Desire to feel special/unique. This person may view punctuality as the mark of a conformist, mediocre life. If you don’t have the life you’ve always wanted, being late can provide a tiny bulwark against feeling like you’ve settled down too much. It’s a small way of feeling like you’re different, that you’re not one of the crowd and march to your own beat, even if most of the other areas of your life are otherwise very conventional.

Engage in passive-aggressive rebellion. Often raised by strict, controlling parents, this man tends to constantly feel as though people are breathing down his neck, and so haphazardly rebels against any rules, even reasonable ones, even ones he willingly agreed to himself. When he finds himself in a situation he dislikes, he is unable to make his needs known and to openly confront the problem, and thus feels powerless to change it. He resorts to rebelling in little ways like being late, in order to maintain a sense of being in charge of his life.

Desire to feel powerful. Some men get a kick out of people waiting for them. It stokes their ego and gives them a sense of control, oftentimes when they lack a feeling of power in other areas of their lives.

How to Break Out of the Unpunctual Habit: Tips for Always Arriving on Time

If you struggle with the habit of consistently being late, hopefully you can now see that the cause of your habit may be deeper and more difficult to shake than you realized (and that if you have an unpunctual loved one, you should be patient and charitable with them). With any habit we fall into, our mind does a (typically unconscious) cost/benefit analysis, and decides one course of action is more beneficial than another. So in breaking an old habit, it’s crucial to identify and cultivate a benefit of the new behavior. Here are some ways to do that, along with other tips for helping you perceive time more accurately, short-circuit magical thinking about the clock, and always get where you’re going on time:

Own up to problem. When someone knows something is right and wants to do it, but fails at doing so, they often resort to rationalizations in order to soothe the dissonance between who they want to be and how they actually act. In the case of the not punctual man, this takes the form of deciding that being punctual isn’t very important anyway, or that people who expect punctuality are unreasonably uptight, or in excusing their lateness by blaming certain circumstances…even if they face those same circumstances every single day. So the first step in overcoming lateness is to quit the rationalizations and take responsibility for the problem.

Redefine punctuality as a matter of integrity. It’s easiest to reach a goal when you feel a strong sense of purpose and motivation in doing so. So stop thinking of being punctual as something your mom or school teacher arbitrarily asked of you, and start viewing it as a matter of integrity — a way of keeping your promises and becoming a man of your word. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and imagine the inconvenience your lateness will cause them. Once you form an inner conviction about the importance of punctuality, you can move from relying on external motivation (deadlines), to inner motivation (excellence).

Start taking note of the benefits of being punctual. Remember, you need to replace the benefit you were getting from the old habit of being late (the rush of beating the clock, the feeling of being special, etc.), with a new one for being punctual. So start taking note of the benefits of being punctual. These can be things like the satisfaction of self-mastery, increasing your sense of confidence and control of your life, and the respect you get from others for being reliable.

Learn to make your needs known and don’t rebel against something you freely chose yourself. If there’s something onerous about various situations in your life, then it’s up to you to make your needs known and to leave or change the situation, instead of passively rebelling through arriving late. Honestly assess the situation: if you willingly agreed to being punctual for a job or something else, than why are you rebelling? If you don’t like the job, then find another, and if you do like it, then keep your promise to arrive on time.

See yourself as part of a team. There are times when you want to be a fully autonomous man, and times when it’s helpful to see yourself as having a role in making something great. When you meet your wife on time for a date night dinner, you contribute to making the evening a relaxing and enjoyable one.

Work on your powers of concentration. If you’re often late because you have trouble staying on task with what you need to be doing to get somewhere on time, building up your mental discipline and ability to focus can help a great deal. A powerful way to do this is through daily meditation. We’ll also have a post in a couple of weeks with some simple concentration exercises you can do to strengthen your attention muscle.

Find more constructive ways of getting your adrenaline rush and feeling special. If you never leave enough time to get somewhere because you love the drama and excitement of trying to “beat the buzzer,” you may want to assess the amount of thrills in your life. Because while it’s very understandable to like that feeling, it’s really kind of a sad way to get your jollies, isn’t it? Even when you “win,” the only reward is…not being late. Instead, look to incorporate other activities into your life that involve risk and get your adrenaline going, but that don’t inconvenience other people and torpedo your personal and professional success for no good reason, and may even make you a better man at the same time.

Similarly, always being late in order to avoid feeling “ordinary” or “conformist,” is a rather impoverished attempt at feeling like an individual. After all, there’s nothing unique about being selfish. Work on creating the life you want and following your passion if you truly want to break away from the crowd.

Redefine your concept of “wasted” time. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to arrive even a minute early because you feel waiting time is wasted time – either because it’s boring or you could have been doing something else you like – redefine wasted time as your guilt-free, luxury time. In our madcap lives, it’s hard to break off from work-related tasks, and just do something totally unnecessary, or something pleasurable and enjoyable that is work-related or tied to backburner goals that you can never seem to find time for. Whenever you’re early and waiting for someone, let that be the time to do those things. Read a book or magazine. Play Angry Birds. Jot down some figures. Contemplate an idea. Relax and just think. Waiting time may become something you truly look forward to – the new benefit to replace the old one you got from running late. You may even come to find yourself disappointed when you don’t get to wait!

In order for this tactic to work, you should always bring a book, pen, or notebook with you, so you can bust them out during your guilt-free enjoyment time. Of course your phone does most of these functions too, and you’ll probably have it with you most of the time.

Always shoot to arrive 15 minutes early. There’s an old expression that if you’re on time, you’re late. The rule of men like Vince Lombardi and Horatio Nelson was to always aim to arrive 15 minutes early. Half the time, you’ll run into unexpected trouble — traffic, difficulty finding the building or a parking space — and end up right on time anyway. And the other half of the time, when you do arrive 15 minutes early, you’ll have a quarter of an hour to do something enjoyable or to get extra prepared for the meeting or interview.

Now it’s important to note that there are times when you do not want to be early, and may even wish to arrive a little late. For example, when picking up a date, aim to arrive right on time or a minute or two after; your date may plan on using every minute up until you said you’d be there to get ready, and you don’t want to make her awkwardly answer the door in her bathrobe. And when it comes to things like dinner parties, people are generally expected to be a tad late; it gives the hostess a little extra time to finish up her preparations. I saw some comments in Monday’s post to the effect that you should arrive to a dinner party 15 minutes late, but personally I think that’s too much; 5-10 is appropriate. After ten minutes a hostess will begin to wonder where you are, and if the hostess’ food was done when the scheduled time arrived, the fact that it has been cooling for 15 minutes will begin to worry her.

Basically, the rule to follow here is that if arriving early will cause others to feel awkward and/or force them to turn their attention to entertaining you when they have other preparations to make, arrive on time or a little after.

Correct your magical thinking and misperceptions about time. As we mentioned above, oftentimes those who struggle with being late feel that time moves slower than it does, or that they can get done more in a period of time then they realistically can. If you fall into this category, here are some ways you can train your mind to think more accurately about time:

Make a chart of how long you think many of your daily tasks take you.

Write down things like:

  • Get ready in morning: 20 minutes
  • Eat breakfast: 15 minutes
  • Drive to work: 9 minutes
  • Drive from work to gym: 15 minutes
  • Workout at gym: 45 minutes

After you make your list, get a timer (or timer watch) and a notebook and carry both around with you during the day. Write down how long each activity actually takes. Do this for a full week – any one day could be an anomaly. At the end of the week, compare your estimations of how long your daily activities take with how long they actually took. Average the actual times for each task together, and then, moving forward, allot yourself that amount of time each day to complete the task. Remember, if you end up with extra time, you can use that time to do something enjoyable. You should post a chart of how long your daily activities take in a place where you can see it often. These realistic times will come to replace the inaccurate, idealized times that were stuck in your head.

Organize your time with a daily planner.

When your plans for the day are vague and fuzzy, you end up spending too little time on some things and too much on others, and inevitably struggle to catch up and get things done on schedule. Instead, plan out what you’re going to do each hour of the day, and how long you plan to spend on each task.

Use a timer to stay on track.

Set a countdown timer, with a large display you can read from across the room, with how long you want to spend on each activity; this will help keep you on track. If it has a feature where it gives you a five minute/one minute warning, all the better.  If you’re often late because you’re prone to distraction, look for a timer that beeps at intervals as well; when you hear the beep, take a moment to assess whether you’re on track with what you’re supposed to be doing or have drifted off.

Keep a clock in every room, even in the shower.

A clock will keep you situated with where you are in time. However, I don’t recommend the common tactic of setting your clock slightly ahead, on the theory that it will spur you into greater urgency. Your mind will simply begin to accommodate the extra time into its calculations, and you’ll be just as late as you were before.

Keep things in set places. When you get home, put your keys on a hook inside the door. Put your cell phone, wallet, and other pocket contents in a dresser valet (ideally with a charger so your phone is ready to go in the morning) or box. That way, when you’re going out the door the next day, you won’t be late because you had to rush all over the house like a mad man looking for your keys.

Leave important items by the door. If you have special things you need to remember to bring with you — homework, documents, samples, tools, whatever — put them right by the door through which you’ll exit in the morning, so you’ll practically trip over them on your way out. You can also put them in a plastic grocery bag that you hang from the doorknob.

What are your tips for always being punctual? Share them with us in the comments!


Never Be Late Again by Diana DeLonzor

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JC Carter July 18, 2012 at 6:47 pm

The last three on the list have helped me immensely. Having a clock in the bathroom that I can see from the shower, having all of my pocket items and jewelry in my dresser valet, and having my travel bag packed and ready to go by the door the night before, have all helped me manage my time in the mornings better.

2 JT July 18, 2012 at 7:00 pm

My Motto is this:
If you’re early , you’re on time. If you’re on time , you’re late. And if you’re late , you’re left behind.
I give my family and friends 10 minutes to show up after the time we agreed on , if they aren’t there by then I leave without them.
I’ve spend way to much time in the past waiting for someone to show up at 1:00 pm ( example ) , only to have them show up 2 hours or more late with a lame excuse.

3 Josh July 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Thanks for this Brett and Kate. It’s some great stuff. I’ve been trying to beat my chronic tardiness for years now, and I think what you have here will be really helpful.

4 Matheus Erthal July 18, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Actually I admit I have most of the problems listed, except “passive-aggressive rebellion” and “Desire to feel powerful”.
Now I’ll work hard to remove my misconceptions, anxiousness and distractions.
Thank you for the tips.

5 Linda July 18, 2012 at 7:52 pm

I found checking traffic reports in the morning before I leave for work has been very helpful as well. I can plan a different route to work if there are any slowdowns and still arrive on time. Also, setting out clothes and packing leftovers from dinner is a time saver. Most importantly, if you are getting kiddos ready to go to, leave the TV off and other distractions so you are not spending time yelling at them to get a move on.

6 Jon July 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I am always early and my wife, most often late. As you might imagine, this can sometimes create a little tension, so say the least. I have learned to relax A LOT in our 14 years of marriage. My wife falls under the category of having an altered perception of time and I am convinced that it is genetic as every other member of her family is consistently tardy. I will be passing this on to my wife for her examination,…when she gets around to it! Thanks for the article.

7 jsallison July 18, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I have an 86 mile one way commute. When everything works out according to my cunning plan, I arrive 30 minutes prior to the time I’m expected to be there (includes time to walk a block to a local chinese restaurant and pickup an habitual sausage/egg/cheese bagel hot off the grille after I park). Unlike one of our newer hires whose on time arrival is considered an ‘event’.

My wife and the rest of the outlaws pretty much consider time in the Einsteinian sense as in highly relative, if they don’t mind, it don’t matter.

The reason left out above was that the time transgressor flat doesn’t give a @&(% about those he imposes upon by being late.

I have customers daily who are incensed because they have been forced to wait 30 minutes to see someone about an issue that they’ve ignored, sometimes for years. And when I explain that if they’d done what they were supposed to do when they were supposed to do it, well, you can imagine the shock and awe. Good thing we keep armed security in the same room.

8 Merlin July 18, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I really liked this post and the previous one about being late.

But one thing fails to elude me. Why is it that we should be late to parties? Isn’t the whole point of these articles to not be late? So shouldn’t that apply to both the host/hostess and the attendees?

If the host/hostess prepared got everything ready by the specified time and the attendees arrive at that specified time, then both parties get more time to hang out with each other.

9 jsallison July 18, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Oh yeah, back in the day a USAREUR-wide alert was called. This caused pretty much all US Army forces then residing in europe to pack up and hightail it to sites designed to get us all out of the barracks and hiding out before the bad guys could arrive. My Cav platoon’s platoon sergeant made the mistake of emphasizing the importance of bugging out on time. Inevitably, shortly after doing this we were lined up at the gate at departure time, Said gate was driven over while still locked at the order of moi, tank section sergeant of said cav platoon and acting platoon sergeant in the absence of said platoon sergeant who’d been delayed in mounting his vehicle. He linked up with us later after we’d gone to ground at points elsewhere and while highly PO’d knew better than to say word one.

10 jsallison July 18, 2012 at 8:46 pm

“…then both parties get more time to hang out with each other.” Which would be why I’d be likely to be late… ;)

11 QuackXP July 18, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I tend to be on time for the big things, interviews, weddings, etc. At work Outlook keep me on time for meetings. As I get a reminder 15 minutes out then, snoose to 5 minutes before. At the 15 minute mark. I try to finish up what I am doing and get any important emails out, and get my portfolio ready 5 minute reminder I’m on my way.

For interviews. I always had a printout of the job app, any emails exchanged, my resume and a note sheet of talking points. I would constantly go over these in my 15 (or 30 if I had to drive far) minutes I left for myself in case of unforeseen difficulty arriving.

But I tend to let my friend’s down a bit for recreational and social occasions. I’m not “that guy” YET. But I could do better. The idea of robbing someone else of their time really stuck with me.

12 Praxis July 18, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Cell phones have multiple timers, alarms and stopwatches.

Use them.

I’m one of the guys who misperceives the passage of time *and* am perpetually distracted. The doohickey which is always in my pocket literally controls my life. (Fortunately I also control it. :D)

13 Theo July 18, 2012 at 10:06 pm

In our household, the usual drill was to be up 2-3 hours before we needed to be at school/work. So, for a 9am start, getting up at 6am was not unheard of. This had the effect of tending to be there at least an hour early — but at Uni, this gave me time to get some coffee, think over ideas, write things down, listen to music, and pretty much just have time to myself.

To this day, this pattern has stuck — if I need to be somewhere, I start prepping up three hours before I need to be there, and aim to be there at least 15 minutes early.

14 thomas July 18, 2012 at 10:09 pm

when I was in germany as an exchange student, I had to buy a clock and learned the importance of being on time. Today I still wear the same clock everyday, and often find myself counting the seconds in everything I do, especially on the subway, so i know exactly how long it takes to arrive somewhere, always try to be at least 15 min earlier for class and right on time for social meetings and get a little mad when people arrives late. I actually enjoy being on time and always take a little pride when I do, also I always carry a book or two with me, so I get to read when i’m earlier than i’m suposed to

15 Harry July 18, 2012 at 10:37 pm

It’s nice to finally see an article that doesn’t treat late people as morally defective and exhort them to “just be on time!” like it’s just that easy.

I have a very bizarre sense of time. Usually, time ticks by much faster than I realize, but just to throw me off once in a while I’ll feel like I spent forever doing something and find that I’m way ahead of schedule.

I find that treating it as a matter of integrity leads to guilt. “Late people are BAD people so if I’m late I’m a BAD person.” Failure is unacceptable if it is a moral issue, and inevitably, there will be times in the learning process where things don’t work perfectly. The guilt just leads to all sorts of other maladaptive strategies to avoid the guilt and torpedoes the entire effort.

The morning is my worst time, especially for the variable time sense part.

16 J. C. Hincapie July 18, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Something very important is to set ALL of your clocks and watches AT THE SAME EXACT TIME, you may have your schedule planned, but if your clocks are set at different times you will be “early” with some and “late” with others, but never on time.

17 Andres July 18, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I really liked this post!

18 Dan July 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm

This is the best site on the entire internet. That is all.

19 Doug July 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm

I gotta be honest, this couldn’t have come at a more coincidental time. My girlfriend is forever getting angry at me for showing up late for usually no reason at all, and I really started trying a couple of days ago to change that. I can identify with many of the problems in here already. Thanks!

20 Tom July 19, 2012 at 12:02 am

‘Tis better to be ten minutes early, than to be ten seconds late.

21 Keshov July 19, 2012 at 12:28 am

Wow… I can’t praise this article enough. I’m probably going to save it for the rest of my life. It’s so comprehensive and really gives insight towards how punctuality is not just being on time, but about having your life set straight. I was raised in a household where being punctual wasn’t a priority and I find myself struggling to use my free time constructively because of that. This article has and will continue to help me make a change. Thanks for the great post!

22 Ilana July 19, 2012 at 1:41 am

One more tip that’s especially relevant at work: schedule yourself transportation/coffee/bathroom time. (Schedule 25- or 55-minute meetings instead of half-hour or hour meetings.) Back-to-back meetings in different buildings simply don’t work … you are bound to be late unless you can teleport from one to the other.

23 Jason July 19, 2012 at 3:03 am

I do think it is a matter of integrity and I would hope that guilt might motivate inner change. When other people are counting on you and you have committed to being somewhere, it’s about keeping your word. In todays age of cell phones, it should be easy to at least call ahead in most situations to inform the other party that you are running late. While this doesn’t remedy the original lack of promptness, it at least shows you respect the other party enough to let them know what is going on and value their time as well.

24 Mitch July 19, 2012 at 6:51 am

I actually waste a lot time my time – or misuse it – by being too early for appointments and therefore spend (or waste) time waiting.

25 Carla July 19, 2012 at 6:57 am

As someone who is constantly showing up late without meaning to / a magical thinker, I found your article super helpful. I have a skewed sense of time so I’m going to try your idea of setting a timer to help keep me on track when I get ready. In the past, the only way I’m able to trick myself into getting to places on time is if I add a 30 minute bumper to get coffee before my meeting. I usually arrive uncaffeinated but right on time.

Someone asked why we should arrive late for a dinner party. I think it’s because cooking for a large crowd can be a lot trickier that your host originally thought and they’re likely to run into a couple of hiccups along the way. I think 10 minutes is a good amount of time. Also, most dinner parties don’t plan to serve dinner at the time you’re asked to arrive. At the beginning, there’s usually a good 30 minutes of wine drinking, snacking and catching up.

26 Jim Collins July 19, 2012 at 7:50 am

Esteemed Kate, Brett, and Readers,

We all have reading we need to do for our work or ought to do for our self-improvement and I have been pleased to see the emphasis the authors of AoM place on the later. I always have such reading material with me. In that way neither the time I spend by arriving early to appointments, being treated rudely by someone who is late, nor uncontrollable chance, is wasted.


Jim Collins

27 Jeff July 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

I have several friends and my sister are horrid at being ontime. After years of putting up with this I just started leaving them and going to do the things we planned. If we were to meet at a certain time and they did not show after 5 mins I would leave. They were furious with me till I told them that they are always late and will not tolerate it anymore. Slowly but surely they started showing up on time but they still arrive late when other want to do something with them. I guess they can put up with it better then me.

28 David July 19, 2012 at 9:00 am

I hate to sound like the typical chauvinistic male who blames his wife for everything, because I don’t, but I spent the first 15 years of my marriage trying to get my wife out of the house on time. It all came to a head one Sunday morning I was scheduled to deliver a speech to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, and my wife was running her typical 15 minutes behind. Without saying a word, I left her for the first time and it felt so invigorating. I know I could have predicted this and advised her earlier that if she was not ready by a certain time, she’d have to drive. We had that conversation later, and now she understands that whenever I have time dead-line and we have planned to traveling together, she must be ready by the time I give her, and if not, she’ll have to drive. Works fine for me and I’m still married after 27 years.

29 Claire Duffy July 19, 2012 at 9:01 am

I love this “Procrastinator’s Clock” – it never tells you the right time, you just don’t ever know how much it’s out by. http://davidseah.com/tools/pclock/

30 N.R. July 19, 2012 at 9:59 am

Mitch said up above “I actually waste a lot time my time – or misuse it – by being too early for appointments and therefore spend (or waste) time waiting.”

In response, I have to reemphasize Brett’s point of **Redefine your concept of “wasted” time**

I always have the magazine that I’m in the middle of reading with me when going to meetings/appointments so I can read it while waiting. Because I generally have so little time to read during the day normally, I love “being forced to wait” before the meeting as it gives me time to read. Sometimes I go to appointments extra early, just so that I can be forced to wait and read. And when the appointment that I’m early for gets delayed by the other person past the meeting time, it doesn’t make me mad — instead, I inwardly cheer because it means I can do more reading!

31 Stephen July 19, 2012 at 10:18 am

Very good, well-thought article. The tips are very helpful. I would, however, caution against making too many references to influences from the past causing actions or behaviors in the present. That’s a very Freudian approach, and I don’t think it will get anyone very far. While some men may have problems with punctuality because of psychological problems, I believe those men are truly rare. The rest of us are late simply because we procrastinate and don’t manage our time very well, or we don’t have a high respect for others’ time. If we realize that and deal with those issues, I think a lack of punctuality will automatically vanish.

32 Jack July 19, 2012 at 10:19 am

Great write up! I had a friend that I nearly couldn’t remain friends with because he was so late all the time. I think he did one of two things:
A) He really couldn’t understand that if you have to be somewhere at 11am and it is a 15 minute drive then you can’t leave your house right at 11am!
B) He couldn’t understand that it is worse to just tell me what you think i want ot hear as opposed to when you will really be there. A typical conversation went
Me “Are we still meeting in 20 minutes?”
Him “Yeah, I’m just leaving the gym now!”
Me “Your gym is a 25 minute drive from home, you said you have to shower which takes about 15 minutes, and then you have to drive 20 minutes to get to where we are meeting, why don’t we just change the time and meet in an hour?”
Him “No, I’ll be there!”

33 Danny July 19, 2012 at 10:23 am

My biggest ally is my watch. I always wear a watch, no matter where I am. I’m sure there is an AoM article about choosing a watch. Every man should probably have two: a waterproof sports watch you can wear while exercising, swimming, or doing physical labor, and a nice watch to wear while in the office, out on the town, or in church.

For me, being on time is a matter of character. I feel very strongly that if I say I will meet someone at a certain time, then I should do what I say. Make your word count. When you say you’re going to do something, DO IT. That’s a manly characteristic, and women will take note.

34 Justin H. July 19, 2012 at 10:35 am

As someone else mentioned, if by chance you’re running late at least let the other party know. There’s nothing worse than it being about 15-20 minutes after the meeting time waiting for them without a clue as to why. If it’s a date I give her 20 minutes with no call/text, then I leave (with a call to her about why). It may sound mean, but if you don’t have the decency to let me know you’re late, then you probably don’t have much respect for other areas in your life.

35 Skully July 19, 2012 at 10:51 am

I suffered many of those issues. Chronic procrastination was basically ruining my life. Eventually a friend talked me into seeing a shrink about possible ADD. It turns out it was anxiety. But I didn’t have panic attacks when the going got tough.no I was brilliant come crunch time. So I never suspected anxiety. A month later, life became easy. All those road blocks disappeared. Now the only challenge is seeing how far I can go, instead of just trying to keep up.

36 Brett A McCall July 19, 2012 at 11:03 am

This is a TED talk waiting to happen!!!

37 Alex July 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

Great post. Looking for thoughts on this:

“Average the actual times for each task together, and then, moving forward, allot yourself that amount of time each day to complete the task.”

In reality, should you allot the amount of time it took on the longest day so you’re never late?

38 Caleb July 19, 2012 at 11:50 am

I used to be late a lot in college. Then I was told that unless I showed up to youth ministry events as early as prescribed I would no longer be able to volunteer in the youth ministry. As a youth ministry major, that was enough to solve my tardiness problem. I now aim to be so early that even if I am late, I am still early. Works great. No pressure to speed and I have time to work on my stuff before the other person gets there. If they get there early, then we get done early. The funniest time was for family Christmas when my daughter was less than 2 weeks old. We were the first ones there and by all rights should have been the last!

39 Anne July 19, 2012 at 12:00 pm

This is another great article! I LOVE this site…and although my name is Anne, I am not a male contemplating a sex change operation. :) I’m quite happy as a lady thank you very much.

Although this is a “manliness” site and I am a woman, I signed up to receive the articles because I found them to be a comforting respite from this crazy modern world and because I tend to agree with quite a bit of what it considers to be manliness, especially the basic, but modernly forgotten concepts of honor, consideration for others (not being late falls under this category) and personal responsibility. I look forward to reading many, many more wonderful articles from this site.

40 Derek July 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm

The military uses the flow-chart idea. They call it “backwards planning”. I want the mission to happen at X time, therefore we need to leave at this time, and pack at this time, etc. Its a wonderful concept and works well.

41 Pao July 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I always set all my clocks 10 minutes advanced so I could get myself moving earlier. Even if I’m aware of my clocks being this way, somehow it still ends up benefiting me.

42 Matthew Earle July 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I recently came across a great formulation that connect anxiety to lateness: You wait to leave for the appointment when the anxiety of being late displaces the anxiety of the appointment itself (or, more generally, other anxieties).

43 Emily July 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I’m someone who’s always early and I find it really hard to understand how others can never seem to arrive on time. So thanks for providing some insights into how they operate! I really think that being on time for anything–not just the big things–shows respect for others and good organizational skills, both of which traits probably need to be programmed into you at a young age.

44 Stephen July 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm

In the morning, while getting ready for work, I keep the radio blaring on a local news/talk station with frequent time checks and a set schedule for news items (traffic every 10 minutes, sports at 15 & 45 past the hour, etc.). This keeps me very aware of what time it is and I make it a point to be out the door 30 minutes before work for my 20 minute commute. (So I guess I have to leave 5 minutes sooner to be “on time”, right?)

45 Chris M. July 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm

I usually try to add 10 or 15 minutes onto what ever amount of time I think it will take me to do something. If it takes me 30minutes to shower then I plan for 45. This is in addition to my plan to show up 15 minutes early. I’d much rather have to wait for someone else then make someone else wait for me. Unfortunately this has brought me to work or an occasion 30-45 minutes or more early but I always have my ipad or phone with me so as the article stated I use the time to read or prepare for something.

46 Amanda July 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm

This is a very good article for the American culture where being on time is expected and prized, but in cultures like the Latin, being an hour late to social events is often expected. I’ve been to a LOT of parties that started 2 hours after the time that was agreed upon. Another reason I’ve heard for people showing up late is that they knew that the event wouldn’t start on time anyway, and they didn’t want to sit there doing nothing for a good hour and a half!!! Of course, for business events you are supposed to be on time, but even so, there are about 10 minutes of wiggle room…

47 Nicole July 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm

When you arrive late you send a clear message to the person you are meeting that you feel your time is more valuable than theirs. Thinking about this has always helped me stick to my 15-minute-early rule.

48 Phil July 20, 2012 at 12:00 am

Here’s a tip that has really helped me.
One issue of mine in college was that I would hit the snooze button on my alarm way too much. I would set it thirty minutes earlier than I needed to be up specifically so I can snooze and bum around. I wound up spending more than thirty minutes dreading my day every morning. I remedied this in two ways: First, I stopped setting my alarm earlier than I needed to get out of bed. This gave me thirty extra minutes of sleep (for some people this may be 15) and I wasn’t as exhausted. It may not sound like much but it made a huge difference in my energy. Secondly, I started using my alarm on my cell phone and placed it across the room. When it goes off, I’m forced to get out of bed to turn it off.

49 Taylor Mac July 20, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Okay but what about the stress you can cause youself by ALWAYS needing to be on-time?

Also, it is important to note that in many countries, the stated meet time is not the expected meet time. For example: in many Latin American countries if we say 7:00, then we will probably end up meeting around 7:15 or 7:30.

50 Moeregaard July 20, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Arriving early a meeting or event sends a message that you are actually interested in being there. Arriving late tells those who are already there that they are a lesser priority. Being fifteen minutes early will allow you to mentally prepare yourself for your meeting and to exchange niceties with the receptionist–very important because his/her opinion of you may be sought after you leave.

51 Kevin Daley July 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Crazy how a few minutes after I read this (nodding the whole way), I realized the FAFSA deadline was last month…

52 johnbon July 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Well, I’m always punctual, except if my wife’s involved. One of your reasons should have included women.

53 wolv July 21, 2012 at 1:45 am

if im running late to something, i’ll get anxious (sweat) and speed walk the last bit (more sweat). i hate getting sweaty when i dont want to be….that to me is one of the greatest benefits of being on time, just feelings cool and comfortable in my non-sweaty clothes.

54 Josh July 22, 2012 at 5:44 am

Good stuff. I hate being late

55 Victor Carr, Jr July 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm

It’s interesting how many the reasons for lateness (being easily distracted, misperceiving the passage of time, under estimating how long things take, and deriving stimulation from rushing to beat the clock) are exactly those associated with ADHD. I wonder if these problems are more generalized in society, or is the ADHD population far larger than we realize?

56 Clayton July 22, 2012 at 10:14 pm

One thing my older sisters told me was that on time for a first date is acutally 5 min before you said you would be there.
That way you look keen and she gets 5 min less of the whole is he going to be here stress.
It was appreciated but only the first time, after that she likes the time to get ready so I found.

57 Kyle July 26, 2012 at 3:25 am

Back to what Amanda said, punctuality is part of culture and different cultures (even sub-cultures) will place a different value on it and have different perceptions of time in general.
I live in Japan at the moment (militantly punctual) but have a few Indian friends. They are remarkably indifferent to time. It took some getting used to at first but dealing with them and their loose sense of time is actually kind of relaxing. If I tell an Indian friend to meet at three o’clock, it pretty much means ‘after lunch, before dinner’ and that’s good enough. Use the spare time to soak in the day, flip through a few pages in a book or chat with your more punctual buddies in the meantime. No sweat.

58 Moeregaard July 26, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Kyle’s post reminds me of the three years I lived and worked in Hawaii. Even on a navy base, “I’ll get to it right away” can mean anything from a minute to two weeks. That’s when I learned the meaning of a “Hawaiian minute.”

59 Gautam July 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

When I read this article at first, I just said to myself, that how come the writer knows so much about me !Later, I had to admit to the harsh reality of my nature. Well, I have been trying now for a while to improve and have also followed some steps listed above(and I have improved, as well !), on the behest of my MOM(she’s the biggest mentor & teacher/trainer of my life). Actually, the reformation steps listed above were not a revelation to me, since MOM had suggested me, about them long ago.

ONE STEP, THAT I WOULD LIKE TO ADD,(based upon my personal experience), is the HABIT OF SETTING UP REMINDERS for new or unusual tasks/activities, that one is not accustomed to, or come randomly to your mind. Maybe, even something that you are trying to remember, to do later.This greatly reduces, the mental panic in the aftermath, of the feeling that, “I am forgetting something, or that something’s not right, or is missing”.

Not to miss pointing out, that even when you have just started carrying out a task and intend to do it everyday, just set up a reminder for same, at a particular time of course. Soon, it will become a habit with you and the subconscious part of your brain, will automatically instruct your body to carry it out, at that specified time, almost like sleepwalking. Gradually, your mind would know the instant, the reminder is about to go-off, and THAN YOU NEED NOT KEEP IT ANYMORE ! :-)

60 Detlaboy July 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Be early to all things except a date then be on time or 3-5 minutes late.

61 DC July 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm

One thing that wasn’t addressed was sleep. Go to sleep late all the time and you wake up late or groggy all the time; not to mention bitchy. And you get to work with the bedsheet prints on your face even after a shower. Sound sleep is essential. Everyone has their own internal clock of how much sleep they need to feel ready to tackle the day ahead of them. Also, I find that having a small digital clock hanging inside the shower counting down helps me race against the clock. With it I can shower in less than 10 minutes in the morning, that includes brushing my teeth. Without it, half an hour. I also love coming out of the shower and having my clothes pressed and hanging with shoes and socks and all accessories laid out with a small
foldable chair to sit down and put my shoes on.
It feels like I have a butler; my bag by the door.
It’s like Tony Stark when he walking towards the
rooftop of his building and his armor suit is
attaching itself to him while he walks out.
Everything is setup to grab as I walk towards out to my car. My favorite song is set up to play as soon as I turn the car on. I don’t care about listening to whether or traffic or celebrity gossip. That’s what my umbrella and sunglasses are for. And if I’m not the one sleeping with Monica Belluci, then what do I care who is?

62 William August 6, 2012 at 10:26 am

I live in Africa, where the concept of time is often rather vague. The time given for something to start is often only a guideline reflecting the time before which nothing will have started (this is particularly true of weddings). Unfortunately this does have the effect of desensitizing one to the need and the integrity of being on time. The problem is illustrated by a comment I heard that was made to a business partner in Latin America, the question was asked whether we in Africa have a similar word to “manana.” The answer was “yes we do, but it doesn’t convey the same sense of haste.”
As one living in this culture, I stumbled upon the following article http://www.conradmbewe.com/2011/05/poor-time-keeping-at-christian-weddings.html which I found quite amusing and very refreshing! How helpful this will be I do not know, but I submit it as an interesting tactic in difficult surroundings.

63 Cristian Maldonado August 7, 2012 at 9:25 am

As always, this has been an excelent read. I know the tips you have provided will help me and my wife immensely. I’ll make sure to link this article in my Facebook page.

64 Katie August 8, 2012 at 7:13 pm

One thing I’ve found helpful is eliminating chaotic events such as buying coffee in the morning. If you make your coffee at home, not only do you save money but you reduce the unpredictability of how long it will take to buy it at the coffee shop.

As to alarm clocks, I’m convinced that the snooze button is the devil. I get so frustrated when people oversleep and miss things. I’ve found that getting regular exercise helps me sleep better, and that getting good sleep helps me to wake up on time and feel refreshed.

I’m only late for work in the middle of winter when someone has an accident on the only highway between my house and the city. :)

65 Vlad August 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm

actually, setting your clock 10 minutes ahead can work, since your brain processess the time in different ways.

the cognitive, computational part can recognize what time is showing and can easily calculate what the actual time is, but another more emotional part of your brain sees 12:00 and you feel like you are late, despte actually being 10 minutes early (or something)

66 ApocalypticCritic October 6, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Another important thing, possibly more important than always being on time, is to always call ahead if you suspect you’re going to be late. It’s nearly impossible in this day and age to be fully disconnected from other people, so there’s really no excuse to not call ahead if you think you’re going to be late. Sometimes, things happen that are beyond your control. Calling ahead shows to the person you’re supposed to be meeting that you are trying to be punctual, and that you value their time.

67 Adeleye October 15, 2012 at 9:31 am

I do wake up early but end get things done late

68 Ron Helpman January 27, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Great take on DeLonzor’s ideas on the causes of, and solutions for, lateness.
That said, in my work with chronically late people I haven’t found a single case supporting DeLonzor’s suggestion that magical thinking can be the result of being indulged as a child—an idea that reinforces the misconception that late people are self-centered.
Magic thinkers are more likely to have been children who felt powerless. To avoid sinking into depression they held onto the hope that when they grew up they would be able to create a perfect life where everything went just as they would like. Arriving late takes them back to feeling helpless and hopeless, so they fixate on the rare times when things have gone perfectly.
Another factor that I’ve found often contributes to magical thinking is having a creative “right brain” style of thinking. Creatives hold on to unrealistic expectations in spite of their past experience because they are better at creating things they imagine rather than they are at logically analyzing what has happened in the past.
In addition to the suggestions you offer, magical thinkers can use self-talk and tell themselves, “It’s disappointing that things won’t always go perfectly, but if I accept that fact I will feel less frustrated and have the satisfaction of being punctual.”

69 Mars March 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

This is a good one, really helpful. I could relate to most of the issues mentioned in this and the suggestions or solution options were very realistic. Thanks a lot.

70 bctom April 13, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Well I’ll bite, seeing as no one else wants to admit to being passive aggressive. I loath tardiness in others, I like to think I am usually punctual. It makes life so much easier. While I didn’t have strict overbearing parents I can rebel silently when required. The passive aggressive paragraph hit home. When I find myself arriving late after dragging my feet for no good reason I use this a sign that something larger is at issue and examine my motives for ending up arriving late.

71 jdunn May 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Missed another reason:

Work in IT. I don’t know how many conferences or meetings or gatherings I have missed simply due to a server going down at work (which happens ALL too frequently) and being called back in to work on it. Sure I or my wife call to communicate that to the other people but sometimes you just don’t have time if it’s a mission critical system that has a 15 minute RTO.

72 Grant May 30, 2013 at 9:12 am

Getting out of bed when the alarm clock goes off usually helps me start the day off right.

73 Eugene July 17, 2013 at 2:05 am

I really love this post:)
I was born as an early bird and would always get up early and was NEVER late.
then as a teenager somehow negative influences creeped in and … i changed.
So let’s just say that this article, and the two preceding it, just helped me a lot in my bid to be on time, everytime.

Thanks again!

74 Adam July 22, 2013 at 6:08 am

you know I am convinced this partly genetic….my parents and thus the children were raised in a church that was habitually late by a solid 15 minutes. my family was habitually later still. it was not unheard of to have an 8 PM family event and have to start waking people at 6 AM because my siblings took marathon showers that lasted hours(no this not a joke nor an exaggeration of any kind whatsoever).

I did learn to take quick showers that way but i have since slacked off and now take hour showers for no real reason at all.

to this day if you want to do something as a family group with my family just count on it being 2 hours from the time they say.

I really am trying to restructure my brain and certain habits….I think will have to go george washington on people and just up and leave and say sorry you werent on time its been 15 minutes. I will give them that grace period because i think they might all fall into a state of complete shock and die of heart attacks.

but for other people I will just not give that same grace period.

i think this will serve two purposes.

1. sticking the habit to my brain
2. ideally commanding a certain level of respect i hope to be treated with and in turn treat other people with.

this set of posts really hit home because my family is a violator of this to the complete extreme.

my mother picked us up from school routinely 4 hours late. the aforementioned shower issues. putting my nieces and nephews down for naps within the 15 minute mark of us supposed to be leaving to do whatever. best of all it never dear old moms fault it was the fact she was taking care of the kids….while this can be a valid complaint(kids are monkey wrenches in the circle of life) I am thinking no this isnt the case. theres no excuse to habitually pick up kids from school 4 hours late(again not an exaggeration).

youll notice I dont pick on my dad…..thats because hes 70 and likely picked up the old art of punctuality. He also runs a business and so he shows up on time every day at 830 no matter what. often times he is a bit early(820 or 815) and the day starts then.

for some reason my dads habits arent the ones that won the family over. I wish they had but oh well.

75 Sean August 9, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Thank you

76 Bella September 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I am one of those late people and some of the reasons listed for being late make sense, but the passive aggressive part doesn’t, at least not for most people who are late. I have beaten my self up over this all my life. I would wake up early as a kid and still manage to be late for things. I have just found out that I have ADD and OCD and those are the reasons I am always late. It is an 24 hour fight between you and your own brain which just wants to do other things than you are supposed to be doing. I can just zone out for no reason (i can’t control it), when studying, when listening even when I am the one doing the talking. I just stop talking and come back after a few seconds. No, it is not an excuse, but I feel a little bit better after years of feeling crappy. I have learned that most people who are chronically late suffer from ADD and most don’t even know it. I am actually a very sensitive person and I feel bad for the person waiting and ashamed for myself. Hope this explains things, when someone is late, don’t judge too quickly.

77 Elizabeth S. January 26, 2014 at 6:35 pm

I just purchased and downloaded the book onto my phone. Thanks for citing your source:
“Never be Late Again” by Dianna Lonzor

You did a great job of covering the topic. Being punctual will greatly change the quality of my life for the better, and will save me loads of money. I am ready to change and am hopeful this book will facilitate my desire to be punctual.

78 Laura February 27, 2014 at 6:33 am

Punctuality was extremely important to my Father, and he tried to instil it into us children from a young age. He used to drop us off at school on his way to work in the mornings. The first time (and only time) I was late in getting to the car and he drove off, leaving me to walk (quite a long way) to school, was also the occasion that taught me to be punctual! It may seem cruel to some, but it worked.
I make a point of always being on time and don’t tolerate tardiness too well in others. It is incredibly rude, selfish and disrespectful.

79 Jay March 15, 2014 at 11:20 pm

I have a clock in every room, and every room has an adjusted time zone according to my “getting ready” routine. The clock in my car is accurate, the clock closest to the door is a couple minutes ahead, the clock in the bathroom is a few more minutes ahead, the clock in the bedroom is a few minutes more ahead than the bathroom. I set the clocks like that and then look away to hit the minute button a few more times so I never know exactly how far ahead it is. That way I can’t just look at the clock and say “oh it’s 5 minutes ahead, I’ve still got time” and let myself get distracted with something else.

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