Mar 7, 2017

The Science of Tardiness

Confession: I have become one of "those people."  You know, the obnoxious friend you can pretty much count on to keep you waiting for 15 minutes.  The late friend.

I know this because a friend of mine literally said, "You're my late friend."

And I was distressed and appalled by this because I had thought I was improving!  I'm definitely trying, and in attempting to address this problem, I have identified a few key mistakes that people with chronic tardiness habitually make.

Oh, and I should also confess that my blog title is misleading.  There is, in fact, no science in this post.

The Real Reasons My People Can't Be On Time to Save Their Lives

1. We Underestimate the Base Time Needed

When estimating time to get somewhere, we look back at the fastest we've ever made the journey.

2. We Leave No Margin for Error

Traffic?  Whaaat???  This never happens and is clearly not my fault.

3. We Forget that Walking Across the Parking Lot Isn't Instantaneous

I was arguing a time estimate with my mom one time and she gave me her reasoning for her (in my mind excessive) travel time.  I was completely flabbergasted when she mentioned leaving 5 minutes to get from the car into the building.

4. We're Not Trying to Be Early - Just On Time

You know that saying, "If you're 15 minutes early, you're on time.  If you're on time, you're late"?  We don't.  Unfortunately this also removes yet another safety margin.

5. We Find Last Minute Things to Fill Any Extra Time

Because we don't particularly want to be early, if we ever find ourselves with extra time, we say, "Oh good!  Now I can clean the toilet/tidy up the bedroom/pack myself a lunch/etc."

6. Some of Us Are Just Horrible Procrastinators

I'm cutting the "we" because I don't think I'm guilty of this one, but I've argued extensively with Ryan about it.  Maybe it really does only take you 10 minutes to get ready, but if you're going to goof off for an hour before going somewhere, why not get ready and then goof off after?

Here's an example of how exactly an evening with me and Ryan goes down.

30 minutes prior to planned departure time...
Jenn: I really want to be on time this time.
Ryan: I only need 10 minutes to get ready.
Jenn: Well I'm going to go get ready now.

10 minutes prior to planned departure time...
Jenn: Please go get ready.
Ryan: Yep, just let me reach a stopping point with whatever derpy phone game I'm currently obsessed with.

8 minutes prior to planned departure time...
Ryan: Now is a good time for a shower.
Jenn: We're not leaving in 8 minutes but thankfully I built in 5 extra minutes to the travel time I based on the minimum time needed to get there without any margin of error!  Surely we'll still make it.

0 minutes prior to planned departure time...
Ryan: La la la, throwing on my clothes, so ready to leave and totally on time.
Jenn: Well, since he's not ready, let me just...

10 minutes after planned departure time...
Ryan: Are YOU ready to go?
Jenn: I am irritated that we are late and OBVIOUSLY I have been waiting on you even though I did 10 extra unnecessary minutes of makeup.
Ryan: Well, I'll just go get in the car...

I was out on a coffee date with someone a while back and we were talking about this.  She said she pissed off some of her Facebook friends by flat-out accusing chronic late-comers of a lack of consideration for other people's time.

As much as I'd like to defend my people, I think I have to concede this point.  But let me explain!  It's not that, in the moment of getting ready, I think to myself, "Should I be on time or should I make so-and-so wait for me for 15 minutes?  Aw, fuck 'em."  No!  BUT if I truly, really cared about the impact my actions had on others, I would take the time to think it through and figure out how to fix the problem.

Which is part of what I'm doing here.  Obviously I've spent a lot of time analyzing my reasons for being late, but I need to spend more time in corrective action.  I've gotten to the point where I'm on time about half the time, but I really want to get back to being the consistently punctual friend I was once upon a time.

In addition to being more considerate of other people's time, it's a much less stressful way to live.  I don't enjoy rushing around and driving like a jerk because I'm trying to make up a couple extra minutes.  I don't imagine too many people do.

I didn't really want to turn this into a goals post, so I won't list my corrective actions, but I think it's fairly obvious anyway.  Leave extra time, don't procrastinate, etc, etc.  I know what my problem areas are now, and I swear I'm working on it!

Next social faux pas to address: remembering names.

Are you a late or early person?  If you're late, do you have the same reasons I do or a whole set of different ones?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design


  1. This reminds me of that quote, sorry I'm late, I didn't want to come. haha. I'm usually an early person because I get anxious about being late, though it definitely happens from time to time & I'm definitely guilty of not being able to find what I need to go out of the door at the last second.

  2. OMG #6 happens in our house ALL THE TIME. And bless him, my husband has no idea how long or what all it involves to get the baby ready (I am usually the one dropping her off at the sitter/etc) it is just compounded.

  3. I am said late freind and I will always be it's my quirk. I feel as though everyone has adjusted to telling me fake times if they really want me to be somewhere on time or they are prepared for my tardiness.

    1. What's interesting about this comment is the total lack of remorse. I said in the post that most of us aren't deliberately inconsiderate of other people's time, we just don't realize the bigger pattern of how our actions inconvenience people. But your comment seems to say you do know and you don't care. Which, on the one hand, props for owning it. It's probably more honest than people who are always late and then make up bullshit excuses every time. But on the other hand, do you really think it's up to the rest of the world to lie to you about start times so you can not inconvenience them?

  4. I am an early person, always. I've never been late to a thing in my entire life. If someone else texts me and informs me that they're going to be late, I can deal. Not informing me is unacceptable. I do have two friends that are habitually late and for both of them, it's because they have no awareness of how long it actually takes them to do something. One thinks she can get ready in half the time it actually takes her, the other thinks she drive/walk/take the train in half the time it actually takes her. I just add +1 hour for the first and +30 min for the 2nd, so if I need them to be on time I lie to them about the start time. I used to get upset because I definitely think it's being inconsiderate of someone else's time, but they're not purposefully being that way. That said, these two have been in my life forever. If someone new comes along and does that, I'd probably drop them pretty quick.

  5. We were talking about this in my yoga teacher training a few weekends ago. My yoga instructor talked about not being wasteful and trying to figure out what we wasted in life. She admitted her waste, was wasting other peoples time, yet would be pissed off if someone was late for her. She had to step back and look at the situation and really try her best to be mindful of it, and not be so upset if someone was late for her. It was interesting to think about how we handle it ourselves verses how we feel when it happens to us.

  6. I am definitely an early/on-time person typically. My family is chronically late for everything, which always embarrassed me. So now I am the opposite and sometimes arrive at places uncomfortably early. :D I've also learned when that happens that it's best to drive around a few minutes or wait in the car! LOL! While I am good at being on time, where I struggle is with estimating how long it will take me to accomplish a task. I almost always underestimate the time so I've learned that I need to pad my original estimate because it almost always wrong. :D

    1. Oh! When traveling, my dad gets really crazy and he'll end up getting impatient and demanding that we leave an hour earlier than our already excessively early leave time. That might be part of the reason I was always more casual with my time estimates, but at this point I've missed enough planes that I leave a TON of airport time too. :P

  7. I am always early or right on time. My husband is generally the same, and he's always been known for being early (and sometimes TOO early - i.e. we're going to a party and they say "come anytime after 7" and he shows up at 6:45 and the hosts aren't ready yet...haha). I've noticed that the exception for him being on time is if we are going somewhere that he doesn't want to go (i.e. one of my aunt's houses with my entire extended family). ;) I have two friends who are always late and I just let it go and add time to when they say they will arrive...that way I'm not usually too disappointed anymore. One of those friends just married someone who is always precise, reliable, and on time, so I've noticed an improvement :)

  8. Me. Yes, this is me. It's not because I don't respect other people's time, which is what non-late people always say. They leave NO ROOM for a different reason. And it might sound like an excuse but honestly, I just apparently can't learn the lesson—all the lessons you listed. I'm optimistic about subways running on time, not hitting traffic, how fast I can walk across a parking lot or down the stairs, etc. Being early feels kind of like a waste of time, which I know is silly, but there are always things to be doing at home that I want to get done before I go. I think on time is perfectly acceptable, and a 1-2 minute margin is fine, considering I would 100% be fine with someone being 1-2 minutes late to meet me, because life happens, you hit stoplights, subways run late, a neighbor wants to have a chat while you're walking out the door, you see a person on the street you want to say hello to. I don't really see the need to assassinate people's character about this, but non-late people totally do and it makes me *almost* care less about being early for them because they remove any possible room for understanding, and that bugs me.

    Granted, I'm a 1-2 minutes late person and if it's ever going to be more than that, I call. And if it's something time-bound like a doc appointment or interview, I'm early. But if it's a "let's meet around 11:30 for brunch," that's not an appointment and I won't kill myself to get there at 11:25--because no matter what, we aren't sitting down to brunch until 11:45 or 12.

  9. This is a point of contention in our house. My husband is NOT someone who shows up late. He's often very early to things. I like to time things *just right*- which usually means I'm a few minutes late. He HATES that. It's something I need to work on, too.

  10. This is funny because you were early to every one of our outings! I used to be chronically late, mostly due to reasons #1, 2, and 4. But then my ex was a chronic early arriver, and he drove, so if I didn't get my butt up and out on time he would actually leave me. You better believe I learned real quick to get ready faster! By now it's become habit, but I can (and do) get ready in 10 min and it drives Blue nuts :P

  11. Ugh I want to pretend that I am never late for things, but that would be a lie. I always have good intentions of being on time and it isn't that I dont respect a persons time...but sometimes it just hard. I live further away from everything than most people, and you throw a newborn in the mix and well...she trumps all things right now. If she decides she needs another bottle or a change of clothes last can really throw me off! I try not to be that friend, and usually I am not. But sometimes I am and I feel bad.

  12. I have no real habit with this task. Sometimes, I'm late. More often, I'm early. Sometimes, I'm on time. Maybe because I'm inconsistent in this department, I'm not too bothered by others who are late.

  13. I use to be the early friend until I had kids. You'd think since that was over a decade ago that I would have gotten better, but I haven't.


Talk to me! I'm friendly. I won't bite.

P.S. If you use Blogger and you want to get email replies to your comments, use your blogger profile instead of Google+ and make sure the box is checked next to "show my email address."