If You're Not Early, You're Late

By Jendayi Harris

Do you have a reputation for being late? It’s time for a change. Chronically late folks are perceived as time mis-managers, disrespectful, narcissistic, disorganized, and lacking personal responsibility.


Ouch. I know, because I’m a recovering late addict. Literally, the Drill Sergeant of Life, Beatrice Bruno, motivational speaker, helped set my behavior straight. As a military person, she learned if you're not early, you're late. At work, when we show up late, we don't realize how much we display rude behavior.


Lateness is inevitable, everyone will be late at one time or another. Chronic lateness is habitual. And sometimes, lateness is intentional due to competing priorities, values or time needs. Essentially all lateness isn’t the same. - Jendayi Harris

Get clear on why you’re late if you’re in the chronically late camp. A favorite t-shirt slogan reads, “I’m late, because I don’t want to be here.” It’s true, most chronically late folks would rather be somewhere else. Like sleep for example. For me, I’m late because of the “one more thing” syndrome. I'd wake up early, thinking I had hours to get things done, yet show up late. So even though I felt super productive, in the eyes of others I was being unthoughtful. It hurt, but no pain, no gain. Unthoughtful wasn't my intention. So I needed to match my intention with my actions.


Here’s some tips to get out of the chronically late club or to share with late folks in your life:

1. Solve the problem that creates problems. The reasons why people are late may not be due to irresponsibility, it may be because of the attraction to do more. If you are late because of the "one more thing" syndrome, stop attempts to get it all done, especially a morning with a 9 am meeting. Before bed, jot down a quick plan of your morning actions. Alongside your actions estimate the time each action takes, then add 15 minutes. If you get lost in your closet because you don't know what to wear, prepare your outfit the day before. A little prevention of the source of lateness, can make a big difference.

2. Develop desire to be early. The harsh perceptions around being late, are true. The truth can help you cultivate or dig up desire by finding reasons because you need to want to be on time. Bottom line is nothing changes without your desire to change it. Honor others because you genuinely care about them. Showing up on time, shows others they matter to you. What are your reasons for wanting to be early?

3. Wait intentionally. Some people are late just because they have a hatred or fear of waiting. Impatient, do’er types, have to learn to wait well. I get it. To sit and wait can be challenging. Bring a book, notepad, music or a laptop with you to work while you wait. This way you can do that one thing at your meeting location so you don’t feel like you’re wasting time.

4. Resolve to be early. Behavioral changes in life come fastest when we've made the decision to change. Get tired of rushing. If you don't have conviction around coming early, you’ll be late. Early birds get the worm, early birds are more prepared, and early birds get things done. Be an early bird, because it ultimately serves others better than the late bird. Set the start time for 10-15 minutes early. Give yourself ample time to get started. Use reminders on your calendar appointments if you lose track of time in focus zone like I do. Allow for traffic, bad hair, moody kiddos, technology failures or subway mishaps.

5. Reduce commitments. Less is more when it comes to the world of productivity. If you have too much on your plate, evidenced by lateness, it may be necessary to declutter your schedule. I've found the more intentional you are about what you commit to - you’ll end up saying no more often. Less is more. Prioritize being on time when it matters most. I may be early for a session, but take my time on weekends. It’s important to balance stern commitments with flexible ones. If you're a yes person and over commit, check out Barbara Russell's upcoming book, Yes! I said No!

6. Don’t hate on the late. Now that you’ll be a bit early or on time, don’t judge or be rude to the others that come late. We humans have a tendency to judge others in an area we’re good at. Remember that it’s a blessing they’ve made it in the first place. There’s a lot going on in our lives these days. Always welcome late people with a warm smile. When you’re late, give yourself grace. Don’t beat yourself up, be thankful you made it. Only you know why you're late. You know the priorities you juggle. Others may judge, but at the end of the day, it’s about what you think about you.

7. Get support. A disclosure, as my counseling background kicks in, chronic lateness may be due to deep seeded emotional wounds. I have a belief that the unhealed past pulls on the present and shows up in severe lateness. This pattern also displays itself in overall life management dysfunction, typically as a result of addiction. It can also be like that t-shirt, you don't want to be where you need to be, so severe lateness is worthy to explore with a therapist or coach. These scenarios require more than will power to be early. If this is your case, consider therapy or coaching to heal the true source of a dysfunctional life.

Take the time to be five to ten minutes early, or at least on time. Be intentional. Apologize when you're late. Start on time. You can overcome chronic lateness and not be that guy or lady that's always late. Your colleagues, clients and friends will appreciate it.

Are you motivated to be intentional around showing up on time?

About Jendayi:

Client results matter to Jendayi. She employs Emotional Intelligence, personality assessment [MBIT, DiSc], Counseling Psychology, business and nearly twenty years in corporate to impact the lives of others. She believes productivity is an inside out matter. Clutter, email hording, and disorganization have just as many psychological roots as it does practical application.