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<span class="basic_member_name">Dennis Dilday, D.C.</span>
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
Ignore the map, it doesn't work!
Everett, Washington
Greatly helpful
out of 10
12 votes

Always Late or Always Early?

How do they do it? They will say, "I will try to make it," or "I am working on losing weight." Then they will say "(fill in the blank) made me late." Huh?
Written Feb 06, 2011, read 10014 times since then.


How do they do it? If you observe closely someone who is always late you might really wonder what goes on inside their head. Time after time after time, all the time, almost every time, they are late. Eventually, you might start using a phrase like, “Ten or fifteen minutes late is on time for her,” or “He gets here when he gets here.”

There are lots of ways to think about the issue, especially if you are one who always gets there early. How upsetting it can be when the always-late person is making the always-early person late. How frustrating it can be when you are the one waiting on the always-late person, and another set of your (issue) buttons are being pushed. Or, you might think in terms of the stress hormones generated by the tension involved in getting there late – doctors think like that, some of us anyway. And nowadays some employers do to (think medical costs, productivity, time loss from work, sick days, etc.)

But I am wondering how they do it. Maybe you are an always-late person. Can you share? It’s clear that always-late folks don’t really mean to do it on the conscious level; listen to their words. And I am sure they have a whole story in their heads about us always-early people, probably something about how neurotic we are. They could be right, but I am not talking about us, I am wondering about them.

Sure, if you are a man and she’s a woman there’s all that John Gray Mars and Venus stuff. Standing there, knowing that if they leave right now they might get where they are going on time, they start up a conversation with you about whether the neighbor’s cat had five in the litter or six, interrupting themselves to say that the crust on the pie last night was a little overdone, you might reasonably ask yourself, “What’s the real message here?” “What is she really talking about?” and/or “What am I missing, doesn’t she know that this is going to make her late?”

And of course it doesn’t really matter in the really big scheme of things. Early or late, a person could make good arguments that either is more right than the other if they wanted to. Certainly us always-early folks could relax a little on how big a deal it is to be there early all the time. And, as an always-early guy, I can talk all day about how we do that: and it all sounds so reasonable and logical in my head – natural and like an instinct at this point. There has to be more to it though than to say the always-late person is just lazy or doesn’t care – though it has to be just as natural for them to be late as it is for us to be early.

Do you know how the always-late folks do it? I am not asking why, but how. And here is a parting thought. If us always-early folks are neurotic (I am not saying that we are, but say, for example), and the always-late folks have some internal issue that helps them to always be late, how messed up do you think those folks are who are always on time are? Or, here’s a question: does thinking about this help you? Would it help in your business? What about in your dealings with clients, customers and co-workers? What would it mean for your business if this were an out-loud conversation? Would there be more patience or acceptance? Would there be more humor? Would it help or hurt your bottom line?

Learn more about the author, Dennis Dilday, D.C..

Comment on this article

  • Carpet Cleaner 
Mountlake Terrace, Washington 
Steve Borcherdt
    Posted by Steve Borcherdt, Mountlake Terrace, Washington | Feb 07, 2011

    Dear Dennis,

    Thanks for a great article. This can be a sticking point for many on both sides of the fence.

    I can't speak for the always late person, that's not me. I am a punctual person. My grandmother taught me that if you aren't ten minutes early, you are late. My mother taught me that being late was not respecting the other person's time. It was a matter of courtesy.

    As far as my business life is concerned I know how surprised some of my clients are when I make appointments for the top of the hour and show up on time. It goes a long way to having them in a good mood and more receptive to anything I say. You can't do first impressions over. Woody Allen said, "80% of success is showing up." how much more so when you are on time.

    In my experience it does little good to

    allow your emotions to steal your attitude over someone else's lack of manners in being late.
    That goes double if you are married to them. My suggestion is to have a book that you are interested in reading available to maximize your time and to take your mind off someone's slight. It could be that this time it was out of their control.
    Grace afforded is grace received.

    Sincerely, Steve

  • Tax Professional and IRS Representation 
Blaine, Washington 
Bill Bradfield, EA
    Posted by Bill Bradfield, EA, Blaine, Washington | Feb 07, 2011

    As a pilot in a number of different aircraft in the USAF, over a 20 year career, it is instilled in me to not just be there on time, but down to the second. Ergo I have this built in clock that will not let me be late and if I am running behind, it drives me crazy.

    I can't speak for late people either. I am interested to hear what they have to say if any are brave enough to respond.


  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Feb 07, 2011

    Thanks for the comments: well said both of you.

    Bill, you make one of my main points. "If I am running behind, it makes me crazy." Our thoughts drive our feelings. And our thoughts are not always ours: a pilot's career has instilled mental programs that carry opinions, values, judgements, etc. which did, do, and will continue to drive behavior and evoke emotions. And this is not about whether any other that is either right or wrong. It's just a "notice this" thing.

    And Steve, your point is well taken. And here, again, my grandmother taught me a thing or two too. I "agreed" to some of it. And it still is in my head. Are my thoughts mine or hers?

    What if we were talking about any one of those "bad" habits we all have and wish we didn't have?

  • Carpet Cleaner 
Mountlake Terrace, Washington 
Steve Borcherdt
    Posted by Steve Borcherdt, Mountlake Terrace, Washington | Feb 07, 2011

    Dear Dennis,

     Later in life I learned to eat the meat and spit out the bones.

    Sincerely, Steve

  • Communication Coaching, Classes & Consulting 
Portland, Oregon 
Karen Mathieson
    Posted by Karen Mathieson, Portland, Oregon | Feb 07, 2011

    Thank you for a personally timely article, Dennis. One of my self-development projects for this year is to be on time for commitments of every kind!

    Since you wonder what goes on in the minds of the chronically late, I will say that my own tardiness pattern relates to how I lose track of time when doing something that interests me. I've taken a page from a colleague who speaks of "hard stops" for meetings, and now calculate precisely when that absorbing activity needs to wrap up--no matter what. (As I used to work at an NPR affiliate where All Things Considered never waited, this has been more a habit reactivation than anything else.)

    For me, the deeper issue about promptness relates to respect for others, whether that's a friend hanging fire in a box office line or a team of fellow professionals who need to get cracking. When I consult that core value, it becomes much easier to be on time.


  • Tax Professional and IRS Representation 
Blaine, Washington 
Bill Bradfield, EA
    Posted by Bill Bradfield, EA, Blaine, Washington | Feb 07, 2011


    You hit it on the head with your respect for others comments. It's not so much about us as it is about the others who have to "cool thier heels" waiting for the late ones to show up.


  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Feb 07, 2011

    Karen - excellent point, it's about choice. Once you make a choice, it's about commitment.

    And in the same way Bill re-stated my comment about cooling our heels, we can all benefit from giving ourselves the same patience, tolerance and acceptance that we give to others.

  • Professional Voice Over Talent 
Smithtown, New York 
Susie Schwarz
    Posted by Susie Schwarz, Smithtown, New York | Feb 08, 2011

    Hi Dennis,

    As a voice talent, deadlines are hard and fast, with very few exceptions. If I deliver a recording late, I could lose a client or their repeat business. In fact, I always make it a rule to delivery earlier, in hopes of providing that added value to the service.

    So when I read your article I asked myself not only how do they do it, but how can they be successful in business?

    Is it because we allow "important" people the extra grace to be late with no legitimate excuses needed? And I wonder: how do their clients feel about waiting?

    How does that work? Or does it!

    Thanks for sharing and inadvertently reminding me to be on time.


  • Medical Practice Management Consultant 
Seattle, Washington 
Cari Snow
    Posted by Cari Snow, Seattle, Washington | Feb 08, 2011

    Thanks for taking the time to write your article Dennis. The fact is there are several reasons that people show up chronically late:

    1. They are people who can't say no. They over extend themselves by saying yes to everything asked of them regardless of conflicts which they hope will just resolve themselves. Ultimately these people drop the ball across the board but are so ingratiating it's hard to be too angry. Big excuse makers but with their heart in the right place.

    2. Some people are terrified of being early because it puts them on the spot to have a one on one conversation that they aren't comfortable with. They'd rather show up at the event or party once it's in full swing to take the pressure off.

    3. Sadly some people are simply narcissistic. They will not change their behavior because they just don't care. They don't want to be inconvenienced by you being late.

    That's why, how? How is also simple. Most people would rather silently seethe than accept or approach the issue. If a person is always late they will not change. It's up to the early person to decide whether they can just accept the late person and whether they want to. Of course the point is mute if the early person hasn't pointed out the lateness as a problem and established boundaries/expectations.

    Frankly though I sensed a note of sexism in your article that I disagree with wholeheartedly. I am an early person. I'm also a woman. I'm also in healthcare. I have personally and professionally experienced late folks of both genders equally but with different excuses.

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Feb 08, 2011

    Susie and Cari - thanks much for the comments. I can relate to much of it (respecting others and the ego issues). I do have to say that I didn't think of #2, but it makes sense.

    One goal of the article is just to provoke thought. Seems that it did that.

    Sorry for any "isms." I didn't mean any and I aint one.


  • Entrepreneur 
San Francisco, California 
Sarah Moore
    Posted by Sarah Moore, San Francisco, California | Feb 09, 2011

    "If us always-early folks are neurotic (I am not saying that we are, but say, for example), and the always-late folks have some internal issue that helps them to always be late..."

    I think you hit the nail on the head here with the statement that (some of us) always-late folks definitely have some sort of psychological issue in regards to our lateness. Granted, sometimes it's time-management issues for some late folks, but for others like myself, it's definitely psychological. I've read somewhere once, that if a person is ALWAYS 15 minutes late to work everyday, then the problem is psychological, not time-managerial, since the person obvioulsy knows how to manage their time, but somehow arrives 15 minutes late everyday anyway. For me (and this took me years to find out), it's an anti-authority sentiment, that stems from childhood and my rebellious teenage days. I simply refuse to be on time, subconsciously mind you, and so I always seem to find that one extra trivial thing to do before I go out the door, or I can never seem to wake up 15 min. earlier, etc. etc. So, yes, we're just as "messed up" on this side (the late side) as you early "neurotics" are on your side. ;) Just thought I'd give a few thoughts to add some light on the discussion. :)

  • Partner 
Ashburn, Virginia 
Cathy Dorman
    Posted by Cathy Dorman, Ashburn, Virginia | Feb 09, 2011

    Great Article-

    I am an always early kind of gal and I seem to have the propensity to attract individuals who are chronically late. From my business partner to my bowling partners I am surrounded by people who are always late. I too was taught that tardiness was disrespectful and I appreciate Cari's comments in understanding my colleagues tardiness. But I did not note any sexism in the article. Maybe my shell is tougher then I thought.

  • Chiropractor 
Puyallup, Washington 
Fred Bomonti
    Posted by Fred Bomonti, Puyallup, Washington | Feb 09, 2011

    Great question and one that you and I and others that work by appointment run into every day. This is something that I have some issues around. When people make an appointment and are late or don't show, they take a time that someone else could have had, inconvenience others and/or just have no respect for my time. For me it is a matter of keeping my word. It is an integrity issue and if I don't do what I have said I will do, then I have lied. I understand the whole control issue thing and the "things come up" thing, but for me, bottom line, I said I would do something and I did or did not keep my word.

  • Sales Manager 
Xiamen, Fujian  China 
David  Wei
    Posted by David Wei, Xiamen, Fujian China | Feb 09, 2011

    To me,I am always try to be 2 minutes earlier than what be expected to be there.In my life,I can count out how many times I am later.

    It is because they tend to find excuse for themselves....

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Feb 09, 2011

    Sarah - thanks for sharing. There are always multiple factors, but I am sure that that's a big one for many other people as well.

    Cathy - thanks for again making my point that we "are taught" - as the guy who wrote The Four Agreements says, we then agree to it and perpetuate it... without thinking.

    And, after thinking about it, the whole John Gray reference could be construed as sexist I suppose. (Sometimes it helps to think in terms of masculine and feminine and whether any given individual of which ever gender(s) is predominantly one or the other.) That might help or it may neuter-ize the whole topic into unanimous ambiguity.

    Anyway, I am glad that the article sparks some conversation and thought around a common subject.

    Thanks all for you input.


  • Career Counselor 
Seattle, Washington 
Laila Atallah
    Posted by Laila Atallah, Seattle, Washington | Feb 10, 2011

    I realize this is slightly different, but it reminds me of lateness:

    I'm not sure if there's something in the water, but over the last several weeks I've had SIX different people cancel a 2-hr professional mtg or workshop at the last minute!

    Sometimes, it's a morning meeting and people are canceling the night before at around 7pm. One time they canceled the meeting on the same morning, after the start time. Almost always, the excuse doesn't ring totally true, and there's no reason given for the late notice. (ie "I need to see a client.")

    Many of these meetings are ones I like to prepare for with reading, writing, research, etc. So, that preparation is for naught.

    Also, a 2-hr mtg usually means I've left 3 hours open to account for the commute and talking with people before or after the meeting, so I often try to keep the rest of the day light, in terms of other meetings. Therefore, if I only get a few hours notice, it's not always easy for me to recover that time in the way I would like, and I may have said "no" to other opportunities that are now not possibilities.

    Sometimes it's taken many weeks to find a time that works for everyone.

    I find myself very reticent to set up another meeting with anyone who acts this way. I wonder if they're aware what a bad taste that kind of treatment can leave in someone's mouth?

    I'm wondering if anyone else has noticed an uptick in this kind of thing? Also, wondering if you have a similar or different reaction, and any tips you may have in dealing with it?

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Feb 10, 2011

    Laila - not so different at all; and so sorry that you have had to go through a stretch of going through that. No, it all about awareness. And consideration. And respect. And thoughtfulness. And planning and preparation. And commitments. And expectations. And communication.

    In this context of Biznik, networking, and doing business, we do end up having to have a number of different strategies. One of my nieces, on my Facebook page, mentioned that she is always early and brings a book to accommodate others potential lateness. We can just let it go. Sometimes we tolerate it because the other person is so important. Sometimes we try tricks like rather than tell someone when you have to be somewhere, you talk about when you have to leave to get there, etc. And sometimes we get sarcastic and irritable about it.

    It's precisely because the standards have gotten so low across all aspects of behavior in our society that crystal clear communication is required. The good news it that that is also why with so little effort you can be perceived as such a super star: mean what you say. Say what you mean. Anticipate the needs of the other person. Show a little sensitivity. Listen a little. Be a little respectful. Be a little humble. Pay attention to what is going on around you, just a little. And do your job at a reasonably competent level. Do these things and people respond to you like you are a superstar. Without ever even trying to be a "people pleaser" your performance stands out because of what passes for acceptable nowadays.

    Sure, there is a balance. We can all strive for more of that. But absentminded selfishness and the "clueless" approach to going through your life day to day, blind to the effects of your behavior on the road, in the home, at work - where ever - has a price. The person pays a price and everyone else pays a price - think sustainability and all the world pays a price.

    You noticed an uptick; others have noticed cultural trends. I think it's a good practice to just notice.


  • spiritual intuitive, psychic medium, energy healer, angel channel 
San Diego, California 
Suzy Morgan
    Posted by Suzy Morgan, San Diego, California | Feb 10, 2011

    Maybe it's a gland thing for those always late people. Hah! In my sales life, I was weened on always being early for an appointment. If anyone waits, it should be you.

    The only time Not to be early is when you are attending a party. Then the opposite it true. Early and you're totally impolite and apt to catch the host taking out the garbage in his dirty clothes and the hostess hiding in the bathroom trying to get her eyelashes on straight.

  • Internet Marketing 
Tampa, Florida 
Celeste Nelson
    Posted by Celeste Nelson, Tampa, Florida | Feb 10, 2011

    Well said Suzy. It is never polite to be to be early to a party. I have been that hostess hiding!

    I think it all comes down to programming. I don't think the chronically late mean to be or are purposely trying to be disrespectful (canceled meetings aside - that is a whole different level of disregard), and I don't think the always early people are necessarily neurotic.

    At some point along the way we all got programmed - 15 minutes on one side of the clock or the other. I can say this as someone who is programmed to hit it on the nose - which makes me late when there is an accident and early when I hit a string of lights just right. As a mostly on-timer, it would be just as hard for me to always be 15 minutes late or 15 minutes early.

    The real question is how do we get programmed these ways and how do we change the programming once it is set.

  • Commercial real estate Issaquah 
Issaquah, Washington 
Richard Symms
    Posted by Richard Symms, Issaquah, Washington | Feb 10, 2011

    Just finished a book "Gender Talk" and that sexism people refer to in your article is clearly referring to how a female responded with details etc as opposed to how a male would speak. There is not any good or bad about it but rather one of the differences between the sexes. Since reading the book, i have enjoyed hearing the differences and now understand better why most women and men communicate the way they do.

  • Owner/President 
Chicago, Illinois 
Brad Miller
    Posted by Brad Miller, Chicago, Illinois | Feb 10, 2011

    I just read an article "No Excuses Ever." The always late people might want to read that.

    Actually, the term "always late person" misses the mark a bit. They are jerks. They don't want to be the one waiting, so they make you wait? They act as the world revolves around them? They are full of excuses, full of themselves, and full of crap.

    Notice there haven't been too many of these jerks responding to this post. They are embarrassed (I hope).

    If you are always late, either the world does revolve around you, you are just a jerk, or both.

  • Strategic Business and Marketing Program Development 
Kennewick, Washington 
Stephanie Williams
    Posted by Stephanie Williams, Kennewick, Washington | Feb 10, 2011

    As in the comment from Cari above I'd have to agree that those of us that are late are typically those that can't say no. We are also those that want to maximize every minute we can to get work done and hate wasting time waiting for people to show up especially when I could have been doing something productive. Unfortunately I also work really well with a short deadline looming over me. Somehow it drives creativity - it's probably the adrenaline :)

    Knowing that being late is an issue I get up everyday with a renewed desire to be timely. Some times I make it, sometimes it just doesn't happen because of one more email or phone call.

    In support of those of us who are frequently "less that timely" just know that most of us don't do it purposefully. We're stressed about being late!

    On the flip side it doesn't bother me when clients are early or a bit late themselves. I try to take each experience as it comes knowing that if we have a respectful relationship it will all come together in the end. If that doesn't work, I'll blame my Mom. An extraordinary business woman....who is always late!

  • Residential Designer/Owner 
Charleston, South Carolina 
Paul Setti
    Posted by Paul Setti, Charleston, South Carolina | Feb 10, 2011

    My apologies for the late comment. :-) Can you guess? Yeah, I admit it, I used to be 20 min. late consistently. I can only say that I am a yes person who always couldn't say no. I tried to squeeze everything in and when FINALLY, some one had the sense enough to let me have it for at least giving them proper notice so they can readjust their time.

    It's not like I was oblivious, I was just driving myself crazy trying to get everything done! When I was spoken to, I realized we all have responsibilities and they said yes to some one else too. In effect I was making them a "liar" as one smartly said earlier. Don't get me wrong, I always wanted what's best for every one. It was a mixture of really what was doable and what was not being well thought out by me.

    SO, I set my calendar alarm three times for reminders of meetings, a day before, a couple of hours before and the proper time it takes to get there prepared. I used to spend more time trying not to let people down and more than likely did or at least tainted their opinion of me or my competance than I realized.

    I also have a lot of half finished projects around the house. :-) Still not perfect.

    I'm not a bad guy nor a jerk. Just a bit crazy I think. However it took the effort of some one else whom I'm grateful to for waking me up a little and helping me to ask myself the critical questions before saying yes to something I can't deliver on in it's entirety and that saying no isn't necessarily bad.

    Great topic. Thanks

    BTW, I'm still a work in progress but do have a lot more smiling faces looking at me when I arrive on time.

  • ESL Teacher 
Quito, Pichincha Ecuador 
cheryl kane
    Posted by cheryl kane, Quito, Pichincha Ecuador | Feb 11, 2011

    Personally, I've never thought of always-early folks as neurotic. As an always-late person, I admire you and strive daily to be among you. Yes, I think many of us always-late people do have an inner mechanism that helps us be late with incredible consistency. It's called Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. Doing some research on this disorder might help you develop some compassion and some understanding of how different brains work differently.

  • spiritual intuitive, psychic medium, energy healer, angel channel 
San Diego, California 
Suzy Morgan
    Posted by Suzy Morgan, San Diego, California | Feb 11, 2011

    Hey Cheryl, your end is only the opposite of my being too early. Is one better than the other? Hardly. They can both be annoying. It's all part of the contrast of life. Beside, I see you live in Ecuador where life is perhaps a little slower and more sane.

  • Hardware & Software Design, Audio Recording & Mastering 
Bellevue, Washington 
Brian Willoughby
    Posted by Brian Willoughby, Bellevue, Washington | Feb 11, 2011

    Before answering the direct questions in the article, I want to point out that lateness can only be defined in terms of schedules, and that not every society is based on a schedule. By dividing people into 'early' and 'late' types, there is a basic presumption that schedules are necessary or even productive in the first place.

    If you look at American society, you will see fast food, three different degrees of Next Day shipping, and all manner of examples of how we keep bumping up the pace of our lives. We are overly focused on the clock, on time, and on schedules. But how many have experienced the joy of slowing down to enjoy a meal that isn't from a fast food joint? How many of us have quelled that habitual consumerism long enough to order something and have it shipped via ground service, so that we're not chomping at the bit for the next new toy or instant gratification?

    My viewpoint is altered by being exposed to different cultures where you cannot depend upon others to have a watch, or even know the time, much less be "on time." There are even subcultures within the United States where this is prevalent, and I have noticed that it is nearly always a culture of creative types who shun the clock and live life as it presents itself rather than on a pre-determined schedule. Outside the U.S., it seems that the hotter climates tend to encourage more lax viewpoints about meeting times.

    To finally out myself, I am one of those nearly-always-late types. I am also a creative type, and I value my time. Most of what I do in my life and in my career cannot be fit into a timetable anyway, so every appointment becomes a balancing act. I might need to bring a book to a meeting because I cannot risk wasting potential research time by being early. On the other hand, if the meeting is important enough, I'll be a half hour early out of respect. What really catches me by surprise is traffic. My 'schedule' - if you can call it one - has me driving at very odd times of day and night. I have a good idea of how long it takes me to get anywhere, and I love the way that my iPhone synchronizes with my Mac and alerts me to get moving, and I have a habit of setting both an early warning and a last minute "get moving" alarm. But sometimes I forget that a meeting that starts between 5pm and 7pm is one that I'm more likely to be late than if the meeting does not force me to drive during rush hour - simply because I do not participate in that traffic schedule 99% of the time. I have transitioned from being nearly-always-late to surprising people with how quickly I can meet them (although the latter is usually when someone is being spontaneous and invites me to meet them without having planned anything in advance). But despite the fact that I have learned techniques to be on time, or early, there is still my creative urge to be productive with my time, and the unfortunate side-effect that adding that last activity before I leave could very well mean that an unpredicted overage causes me to be late. I would sometimes have to give up being creative and devote an entire day to a single appointment if I wanted to always be on time or early, and I'm not willing to do that very often.

    I'd like to ask the challenging question: If being early shows respect for the value of the other person's time, then who is respecting the value of their own time? I don't want to suggest that altruism is a bad instinct, but if everyone were altruistic then we'd all be giving up vast portions of our lives as a sacrifice to other people who also only desire to give up their time for others. Seems like a senseless waste to me, in this case of the most valuable and irreplaceable resource we have: time. Sometimes, a little selfishness goes a long way towards maximizing the total benefit to everyone.

    As others have suggested in the comments, it seems like the most important issue here is communication. The early types should make it clear to others that promptness is not only important, but actually expected. Likewise, those of us who do not live on a schedule should make it clear that we can usually only promise a window of time and not a precise moment. But I would like to suggest that the early types should consider all of the assumptions that are inherent in schedules and the labels 'early' or 'late' - because our social structure is not the only functional social structure on the planet. Have any of you been to southern Spain?

    Granted, there are times when people have to physically meet in order to achieve anything, and at these times it becomes important to schedule the meeting and agree upon the importance of timeliness. But I have been learning to challenge the status quo, and re-think whether we need so many meetings in our lives, especially when all of the associated commuting takes away from creative time, while also polluting the planet. The meeting that you can successfully avoid entirely is the meeting where nobody is late!

    My apologies to those whose careers are not purely creative, and who necessarily have to deal with strict schedules every single work day. But I would ask that you consider what it means to ask a creative person to stop in the middle of what they might be doing and translocate to some other physical meeting place at a particular time.

  • Career Counselor 
Seattle, Washington 
Laila Atallah
    Posted by Laila Atallah, Seattle, Washington | Feb 11, 2011

    What a lively conversation! You really hit a vein, Dennis. Also, thanks for your response to my comments. I have, indeed, noticed people generally acting differently over time, but it's empowering and enlightening to see it as part of a cultural trend.

    I heartily agree with what you said about respect, consideration, awareness, sensitivity, etc. -- all things I highly value. In particular, I’ve been completely flummoxed in recent years by how rare it is to find people actually who enjoy listening as much as they enjoy talking. And, what a great point that actually acting in these ways can make one a super star. Truly!

    At the same time, I like how you framed the conversation in a non-shaming way. It’s so easy to get hard and judgmental, and I am looking for ways to keep good boundaries for myself without demonizing someone who sees things differently or struggles with time.

    @Steve Borcherdt – I love your grandmother’s “ If you aren't ten minutes early, you’re late.” It stuck with me all day. I think it’s a mind shift that will help me be a lot more prompt (and relaxed). Reminds me of a waiter who told me, “if you can’t afford to pay a reasonable tip, you can’t afford to go out to eat.”

    @Karen Mathieson, I appreciate hearing your take on things, and some things that have made a difference for you.

    @Carl Snot – Great insights. Especially #1 and #2 are new ideas to me.

    @Sarah Moore – Thanks for sharing more about what goes on far beneath the surface.

    @Celeste Nelson – Interesting, the idea about us each being “programmed”, on one side of the clock or another.

    @Paul Setti – really appreciated hearing your story, and what you do to counteract a propensity for lateness.

    @Brian – It’s good to hear your perspective, and nice to see you thinking outside the box. I appreciate how much you value your creativity and creative time. In your case, it sounds like you might want to go all Tim Ferris, and try to get super creative about trying to eliminate almost all meetings, unless absolutely necessary.

    What I didn’t hear you mention was any respect or concern for OTHER people’s creative time and desires. To me, we’re trying to balance both. It reminds me of the saying “Even a thief loves doing business with an honest man.” Most of us prefer to be with people who do what they say they will do. Since you value your time so highly, how do you feel when someone claims they’re going to meet you at one time and then leaves you hanging for a long time, because they care more about themselves than you?

  • Residential Designer/Owner 
Charleston, South Carolina 
Paul Setti
    Posted by Paul Setti, Charleston, South Carolina | Feb 11, 2011

    Thanks again Dennis for presenting the topic. @Cheryl: I looked up Adult ADD as you suggested and I am "proud" to say that I fit every possibility of having signs. I'm not creating excuses but really I have to admit I have often wondered myself. Thank you for posting your comment.

    @Laila: Thank you for the compliment! BUT, I'm not off of the hook. I too am a creative type, I design homes. The people whom I do business with are schedule driven because they are in a contract to build on time. I have had to learn not only to respect that time line but also learn it as well. So for me in my world, if there are two types of people, "On Timers and SomeTimers" we coexist and are interdependent on each other to accomplish the project and make a common client happy. It's my responsibility to do my part and deliver no matter what. I've had to learn to adjust and realize not doing so is irresponsible.

    I bring up the ADD part because I know myself and get a lot of criticism for forgetting even with my family. So what am I saying? Maybe in some cases, science is involved, but there are ways to work with that. In other cases, thoughtlessness or o regard for others' time is another answer amd the list goes on. I think we all realize this. I do think it is good for those getting stuck waiting all of the time to speak up in some way. It will help make a difference. It got me thinking. Trust me. It is no easy task to readjust a thought process and developing new habbits. There is always room for improvement for me. Thanks again. Peace.

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Feb 11, 2011

    Wow! As is often the case, this conversation has taken on a life of it's own. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I started with a one-dimensional question; we are clearly now exploring many other dimensions. Cheryl, thank you for offering one answer. There are many others no doubt. (I came up in the years prior to some of the current labels, but they would have applied to me.) Chiropractic care, tai chi and meditation has helped me and I continue to study wellness and the causes of health.

    As for appreciating the cultural implications of my question, thanks for that shift in thinking. I do. And, more importantly - now that we are not talking about my initial question - the health implications of these cultural aspects are a prime consideration in my Chiropractic practice: I repeat until my patients get it that I do not want they to stress over being early or late to an appointment with me - they have enough stress over such things. Seeing me is supposed to be a relaxing and pleasant experience, something they look forward to as restorative. It's a hard habit to break, all the stuff that comes up over an appointment time: all the stories (said out loud and said in their head), the phone calls to say they will be 5 minutes late or early, etc. I let our patients know that I will be there either way, don't care in the least (in the sense that "it's ok" not "I don't care"), and all is well - relax. Once they get that, thinking about actually getting to the office for their visit changes for them and they show up more ready for a healing experience, instead of chewing themselves out for something - or thinking somewhere in our office will chew them out. (Then we can go through the same process with their home exercise program:-)

    And I know that the creative types just get distracted often. That's just part of being creative. I wish I had more of that myself... and I am working on it. Like one of my cousins said when we were talking about hiring: you get their whole program. Speaking of that cousin, he's never had a watch (no cell phone either), doesn't use any kind of planner, can't tell you where he will be at anytime in the future, and will not make a commitment to a specific meet time. Yet, he is always the one who is free to play (or work) if there is playing to be done. He can and does get things done - lots of things in a short time, after long periods of seeming malaise. He gets up when he is rested and goes to sleep when he is tired; eats when he is hungry and does pretty much anything else he does when the mood strikes him. (Yep, he would fit it well in southern Spain:-)

    Thanks again, for all of your comments and thoughtful input.

    Celeste - you hit the nail on the head with my main thought in the original question. Well said.


  • Chiropractor 
Puyallup, Washington 
Fred Bomonti
    Posted by Fred Bomonti, Puyallup, Washington | Feb 11, 2011

    Wow Dennis, you stirred up a hornets nest. I have read with interest all the "reasons", "personality traits", cultural differences" and other excuses for not keeping one's word, but, bottom line I said I would be someplace, meet someone, do something and I did not. If I can't or won't do what I said I would do, why say it? It is "My Word", my integrity that is at stake and that is important to me. No anxiety, no compulsion, just "my word". If I can't keep it, I don't give it. I don't think it is a "right" "wrong" thing as much as it is just "my word". ( Please note that I am not trying to be sanctimonious in my using the first person, I just don't want to be "shoulding" on anyone else.)

    Below is a quote by John Whiteside which sums up what I am trying to share.

    “Ultimately, the power of your presentation depends upon your integrity as a person.  Does it matter that you commit acts that violate your own integrity as long as they are secret and no one knows about them? Yes, in this world it does because in the creative act of launching a vision the only authority you possess is the degree to which you honor your word as yourself.  Does this mean that you always keep your word? No, that is not given to mere mortals as a possibility.  It does mean that the integrity of your word is a matter of deep and sacred concern for you.  This does not mean concern in the sense of brooding privately about it.  In fact, one of the best and quickest ways to heal a personal integrity issue is to publicly and honestly declare your lack of integrity.  Launching and maintaining powerful visions require constant practice.  Give your word, notice if you keep it, and take corrective action if you fall short.”

    John Whiteside “The Phoenix Agenda”

  • Strings Teacher 
Puyallup, Washington 
Ashley Brockett
    Posted by Ashley Brockett, Puyallup, Washington | Feb 11, 2011

    As far as the comments about how do you deal with clients that show up late or cancel last minute (sorry, I don't remember who they were - this was a long discussion!):

    I'm a private music teacher. I deal with late clients and last minute cancellations on a daily basis. I don't let it get me worked up, but I do charge them for it. If they reserved a 1-1:30 slot for their lesson, and they show up at 1:15, well, they wasted the first 15 minutes of their slot.

    I also have all of my students pay a month's tuition at the beginning of the month, and I don't offer refunds. So if they cancel, I've already been paid, and I have a few extra minutes to grab a bite to eat, a bathroom break, or practice an instrument. Of course, it's gotten much easier for me since I stopped driving to my students!

  • Hardware & Software Design, Audio Recording & Mastering 
Bellevue, Washington 
Brian Willoughby
    Posted by Brian Willoughby, Bellevue, Washington | Feb 12, 2011

    @Fred It's great to be mindful of integrity and keeping your word, but, again, I want to point out the assumptions that are built in to showing up on time. When you promise to meet someone, what exactly is the nature of the promise? Is it only a promise to be punctual, but not a promise to be fully present? Is it all about showing up on time, but not necessarily prepared to be productive? What if you're on time, but so stressed and out of sorts that you can't be productive until several minutes into the meeting? There are many ways to fail to keep your word, and it depends upon successful communication so that both parties know what to expect.

    When people start to focus on a precise time when arranging a meeting, then I make it clear whether I can be timely or not. It often depends upon where the meeting is. If you meet me at my office, then I'm always on time ;-) But I tend to focus on more than just the timing of the meeting, because I want to accomplish things beyond just showing up.

    @Laila You asked how I feel when others are late, after commenting that you didn't notice any mention of my respect or concern for others. Well, I must admit that the extra length of my first comment probably made you miss the points I made about how each meeting represents a balance, how I often bring a book so I can be early, how I will make a point of being a half hour early if the situation warrants, and how I use technology as reminders. I believe that the answers to your questions are implied in my text.

    I mostly deal with creative people, and so I have to accept that some will be late. I try to structure the meeting itself so that the ramifications of timing are not so important. The appropriate meeting structure can vary greatly depending upon who you're meeting and why.

    On the other hand, if I have a doctor's appointment; if I'm getting a haircut or a massage, then I know I'm dealing with someone who cannot let their schedule slip just for me. If I am 5 minutes late, then I realize I have lost 5 minutes of my appointment and will receive less service. But I also realize that when I am on time, things still may not be able to start if the previous client was late and is now going over, past their time slot. Some flexibility is polite.

    Ashley has the perfect solution for time-slot based services: Make it clear to the client that your schedule is fixed, and if the client misses all or part of a time slot then there are no refunds. Many such businesses have a 24-hour advance notice requirement for any appointment changes, and that seems totally fair for services that are time-slot based.

  • spiritual intuitive, psychic medium, energy healer, angel channel 
San Diego, California 
Suzy Morgan
    Posted by Suzy Morgan, San Diego, California | Feb 12, 2011

    @Brian - This is a great post in my opinion. You are setting up clear boundaries for yourself and your clients. This way everyone knows "the rules." Maybe that's the answer to the whole issue.

    Boundaries are a big issue for me so I appreciate your insight.

  • Chiropractor 
Puyallup, Washington 
Fred Bomonti
    Posted by Fred Bomonti, Puyallup, Washington | Feb 12, 2011

    Hi Brian, you raise some interesting distinctions inside the concept of "integrity", of which showing up when you say you will is just one. As I would understand it the intent of your meeting/appointment is implicit in the request for the meeting and has the implied, but not necessarily stated, agreement of the degree of preparedness that is required for each party. In the example of a doctor's appointment, all the patient usually has to do is show up. With regard to a business meeting there is an agreement and expectation of being on time plus preparedness that does not necessarily need to be stated, but probably would not hurt if it was stated. For me, based on what I have read like the quote from Whiteside, the meaning of integrity, being our word, in our agreements ("I will be there at 5 PM") is quite clear and powerful, especially in the current world where it seems popular to create excuses for not telling the truth, not only for oneself and to oneself, but for others as well.

  • Hardware & Software Design, Audio Recording & Mastering 
Bellevue, Washington 
Brian Willoughby
    Posted by Brian Willoughby, Bellevue, Washington | Feb 12, 2011

    P.S. Thanks, Laila, for mentioning Tim Ferriss. I had not heard of him before (I'm the type more likely to have heard of Timothy Ferris).

  • Owner/President 
Chicago, Illinois 
Brad Miller
    Posted by Brad Miller, Chicago, Illinois | Feb 12, 2011

    I don't have imagine what it's like for a creative person to have to stop in the middle of what they are doing to make a meeting. I am a creative person.

    I am an oil painter...I'm dyslexic...I'm creative...AND I am always on time. Running a graphic design firm requires professionalism. Being on time is about professionalism.

    If you are creative and unprofessional, own it, don't excuse it. As an artist, I sometimes need to act like the center of the universe, but I can't do that when running a small business.

  • Director, Social Media 
Seattle, Washington 
Brian  Crouch
    Posted by Brian Crouch, Seattle, Washington | Feb 13, 2011

    A few random thoughts on this: I think most people's lives are reflection of the expectations of their peer group. I currently work in an office environment, not as a solopreneur anymore. The punctuality of the meetings is enabled by the proximity of all participants but also the engendered expectations that we all arrive in the conference room at the same time. We do have one individual who consistently has to be reminded of the meeting and comes in 5 minutes late. But he is the most "senior" (in exec level) of us all and was at another company prior with more loose attitude towards meetings.

    When I was flying solo, I was always on time, but that's because I have a lengthy sales history, which engendered the expectation that you can't risk offending someone by being late. The other party, often solopreneurs, were regularly late... and my impression was that as home-based business types, they weren't on the road as often and so unaccustomed to allowing for travel time. They usually expressed difficulty finding parking. This is relevant to the inexperience driving to appointments, but may also indicate that they parked with an eye towards economics....

    Thanks for the food for thought Dennis.

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Feb 14, 2011

    Thanks all for the thoughtful comments. I like the idea of communicating expectations, and checking for understanding. Hard to argue against that.

    I will certainly be paying even more attention to what get said re: timeliness after all this talk.

  • Career Counselor 
Seattle, Washington 
Laila Atallah
    Posted by Laila Atallah, Seattle, Washington | Feb 14, 2011

    @Brian, my pleasure. I have found Ferris' book to be life-changing! I'd love to know what you think. Also, thanks for responding to my question. I hope to respond more soon.

  • Marketing Strategist and Business Consultant 
San Francisco, California 
Amy Harcourt
    Posted by Amy Harcourt, San Francisco, California | Feb 15, 2011

    Dennis, what a thought provoking article. I love the discussion it's generated. Thanks for putting these questions out there for us to ponder and debate.

  • Life, Prosperity, and Small Business Coach. Author. Speaker. Trainer. Singer/Songwriter. 
Seattle, Washington 
Kate Phillips
    Posted by Kate Phillips, Seattle, Washington | Feb 18, 2011

    Me - more often late than early. Not something I'm proud of, as I consider myself highly reliable, even "over-responsible" in other ways. I've examined it to death over the years, and notice the main ways it happens:

    1) I don't leave house on time due to forgetting something and having to go back (last week), or not being able to find something I need (yesterday), even though I had found this important piece of paper 3 hours earlier to make SURE I had it!

    As a Myers-Briggs ENFP (almost an INFP), I'm off the scale on the N - Intuitive. As an N, I live in the world of ideas much moreso than the physical world. It takes great effort to pay attention to my surroundings (including the clock) to get ready and leave with everything I need.

    Us "N's" are far more likely to lose keys or forget something we needed. Our brains track ideas, not physical objects. Checklists can help, and after I took the Myers Briggs, I got a clip for my keys and started physically attaching them to my purse. (That alone eliminated 30 minutes a week of key-searching.)

    Albert Einstein was also an off-the-scale "N," and I hear stories that getting from point A to point B was a challenge for him. He was solving the mysteries of the universe, but he couldn't manage to get off at the right bus stop. (I'm prone to wrong turns and accidental scenic routes.)

    With men, we call it the "absent minded professor." With women, it's just "airhead." But sometimes we're late because we were solving great mysteries, too. (You'll thank us "N's" later; the cure for cancer will come from a scientist who is habitually tardy.)

    2) Then there's the "P" part. I'm trying to do too much and squeeze something else in. Either I squeeze something in before I leave, or perhaps en route. ("I'm 8 minutes early, oh, I should be able to stop by the store and get this one thing...")

    The trouble is partly too much optimism (I never expect a long line or not being able to find the item) and partly the P thing (Perceiving). I'm wired to be flexible and consider all options rather than being decisive and sticking to my decision (for instance, to just go the direct route and arrive early).

    The "N - P" thing is why I can give you so many options as to how someone can be late. My mind is always exploring, but I don't have the concrete focus that would come naturally to an S - J.

    3) I live out in the country and I know exactly how long it takes to get to Bellevue, Seattle, etc. But because I'm coming from 30-plus miles away, there are more opportunities for unexpected construction, traffic, or getting stuck on a country road behind a Sunday driver.

    Obviously, the solution is to just leave 15 minutes early, but even when I do, well, see #2.

    4) I do prioritize, for instance, for clients or one-on-one meetings (rarely late). But it takes effort.

    5) Occasionally there's a higher priority for me. For instance, if I got a poor night's sleep and I'm going to a big event, I might decide to get another hour's sleep so that I'll be alert rather than prompt. Self-care trumps looking good. (So what if some jerk calls me a jerk.)

    6) Perhaps I'm late because I'm writing an overly-thorough response to someone's article. ;-)

    Hope that helps.

  •  Artist/ Owner of Loft ArtWork 
Toronto, Ontario Canada 
Laura Warburton
    Posted by Laura Warburton, Toronto, Ontario Canada | Feb 21, 2011

    Ah the always late.. I know a few of those types and have like many of us waited for those types as well. I am always early, mainly to ensure I arrive with some semblance of unhurried mind/body. But more importantly I value the other persons time and commitment to met me. I wonder if the chronically late have a deep down sub conscience insecurity related to self worth... I know I know ... psychoanalysis of others is dangerous. But give it a minute review. What better way to promote a feeling of importance than having someone WAITING for you to arrive?
    I don't know , am I looking for an excuse for chronic lateness ? I will say I mentioned this very loose layman theory to one friend I would not set up a meeting time because of her chronic lateness, I also told another friend I would wait 10 minutes, not one second more and I would leave. I lost one friend but kept the other, and I don't wait for her anymore.

    Really why have measurement of time if not to use it ? Sometimes I am very science oriented , maybe to a rigid point... but then wildly artistic with no rigidity. that might be an annoying feature for my friends>>??? having read this article I think I will ask them.

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Feb 22, 2011

    Laura - an important part of what you are talking about is how you teach people to treat you. You do teach people how to treat you and they pick up on it and act accordingly. If you act like a victim, people (not all but many) will victimize you.

    Likewise, if someone is always late and you, through your words and actions, make it clear that the consequences of being late are that you won't be there at all, they will often modify their behavior for you - even if there are still the same as always to everyone else.

    Usually, this results in people moving on to have a relationship with someone who will allow them to always be late (or whatever the behavior is).

    In our world of patient care, some people start out not to responsible in taking care of their accounts. They might try and teach us that it works for them if we go along. When we don't something has to change - they either go somewhere else, with our blessings, or they stay on top of their accounts in our office. Same goes for showing up for appointments, calling to cancel, being early or late, showing up without an appointment, etc. Some things matter, some don't matter much. We all have expectations. We need to communicate them, check for feedback (verify). And be consistent. That way everyone knows what to expect.

  • Owner of The Massage Clinic, Inc. 
Everett, Washington 
Kim Newman
    Posted by Kim Newman, Everett, Washington | Apr 11, 2011

    Wow, what a lively topic. I am an always early person. I find being late or right on time causes me unnecessary stress. I can arrive early and enjoy a good book for a few minutes or review meeting notes. As a massage therapist I have to stick to a schedule, if I don’t it can interfere with a lot of people’s schedules. As a professional, I feel it is important to respect other people’s time. I schedule 15 minutes between appointments to allow time for myself as well as a buffer for clients who arrive late or early. For those who like to be early I can be ready to take them as they arrive and those who are a couple minutes late I can usually give them their full scheduled time. For me it is all about respect. I respect the time of others. It seems (at least with those who can easily jump from late to early) their timeliness is highly dependent on if they see the person as having a higher importance than them or, if there will be some unwanted consequence from their tardiness whether it is monetary or having to wait for the next appointment. My employees know my policy on tardiness and know it is not acceptable to show up late for a client.

    The biggest reason I am so relaxed with client’s timeliness is they are paying for my time. How they choose to use that time is up to them. For example if they want their full time and find that it is more important then what else they could be doing they will show up on time. If they are busy with something more pressing and will be a few minutes late and miss some of their time they understand the trade off may be a shorter appointment. Either way, they can feel less stress about their time and commitments.

    Now for my personal life, I do not make many time based plans with people who are always late. If I have a friend who has proven to me they cannot make a time commitment I will make a plan like I will be here from this time to that time and if you are there it would be nice to see you. Usually, it is something I would be doing anyway the only change I make in that plan is I put a timeframe on it instead of doing it when ever. I value my time to much to wait on people who cannot respect me enough to value my time as much as they value theirs.

  • Art Director 
Jamestown, North Carolina 
Sean Larkin
    Posted by Sean Larkin, Jamestown, North Carolina | Aug 18, 2011

    Great topic, and discussion! I walk the fence on this issue, as I am both types of people.

    I am a creative professional, working full time for a mail order company. I am an always-late person when it comes to getting to work in the morning. It's usually 1-5 minutes late. Either I stayed in bed a little longer than I should have, or I got up early and with the extra time, got caught up reading work emails or making mental notes about projects I'm working on.

    I'm working on changing this behavior, but it's been tough. Plus, I have a 2 and a 4 year old, so even on mornings where I'M doing great, they're always good for a curveball or two. :)

    The president of my company's biggest pet peeve is tardiness, so even though it's just 1, 2, or 5 minutes late, it still creates some scowls or faux-lectures from my direct supervisor. He realizes that I typically stay 15-30 minutes late everyday, will work nights if a last minute project needs to be completed, and am almost always accessible, regardless of anything. So, to him, he knows it shouldn't be a big deal, but at the same time, his boss is telling him it is.

    So, that is the always-late side of me. That is also the only always-late side of me.

    Once at work, I am almost always the first one there for meetings, and we have a lot of them. Ironically, I get very frustrated when teammates (and managers) stroll into the conference room at 2:13 for the 2:00 meeting. Partially because it's rude, partially because the person who gave me a talking to for being 2 minutes late to work was 13 minutes late to my meeting.

    When it comes to completing tasks, more often than not, they are done on time. There are plenty of outside forces that can cause delays. It is rare that a mismanage of my time has caused a delay. I've been focusing on my project management skills over the past year, to get better at managing the big picture. I convinced the management team to get a project management solution I found, so we could better keep track of our projects.

    With my freelance design business, I am even more punctual when it comes to meetings with clients. I am very detailed when it comes to estimating time and planning a project, and I make sure I deliver when I say I am going to.

    Socially, I'd say I'm also 50/50 with the punctuality. If I'm meeting friends for a movie at a set time, then I'll be there on time. But if it's just meeting up for beers "around 9-ish", then you'll see me around 9:30.

  • Ignore the map, it doesn't work! 
Everett, Washington 
Dennis Dilday, D.C.
    Posted by Dennis Dilday, D.C., Everett, Washington | Mar 21, 2012

    Thanks for your comments. It seems that the "always late" types can be on time when they know that it is really important. I guess what I notice about that is that it creates undo stress for them (and others). It's this stress that seems so unnecessary to me most of the time.

    That's why, in general, it's probably better not to care because then there is much less stress:-)

    It is good, as you say Sean, to appreciate the context. The "-ish" sets the tone. Punctual may not always be assumed. In fact, with traffic as it is, most people factor in quite a bit of slack if there is driving involved. (Again, thought, the "always early" will allow plenty; the "always late" will not.)

    When it matters or there is doubt, the "If something comes up, please let me know" clause applies and serves to ease peoples minds and avoid stress.

    Thanks again for all the comments and I am glad this topic struck a cord.