If you tend to be late for things, the best way to change — the only way to change permanently — is to change interiorly. You can do this by remapping your understanding of the issues involved through increasing your awareness of what you’re doing and how it impacts others. In my earlier posts Being On Time and 6 Tips for Being On Time I gave concrete suggestions for how to avoid being late. Last week, I looked at its impact on others in The Selfishness of Being Late. I encourage you to check them out.
Some comments I received on last week’s post argued against the “selfish” label I used. Heather G and Rebecca Trotter pointed out that other parts of the world are less time-focused. Heather G also observed that only since the invention of cheap clocks has it even been possible for people to be very precise. These are very valid points, and I agree that our culture is way too attached to the idea that time is money. But that cuts both ways. Nowadays I am sometimes very early, which the time-is-money mentality would see as “wasting” my own time, but I don’t value my time that much. The bottom line is that we don’t live in Africa or the Middle Ages, and if the people you’re interacting with have certain expectations about time, then you either respect those expectations or you don’t.
Rebecca Trotter also observed that she is more of a daydreamer type and a writer — easily distracted by the details of life — and it is much more effort for her to stay on time than it is for some others. As I said in Being On Time, I am the same way. I especially relate to the sense of time slippage — where I’m just puttering around getting ready to leave and somehow a half hour has gone by. In order to be on time regularly, I have to both build more padding into my schedule and make some effort to keep an eye on the clock while I’m preparing and en route, and sometimes I have to consciously stop myself from getting distracted.
I suspect that some of the defensive comments come from my labeling lateness as “selfish” in the title and body of last week’s post. I realize it’s a provocative word. I like to use blunt words sometimes to call attention to simple truths. (Similarly, I said in Being On Time that making a plan with someone that you know you can’t really keep is lying.) Using harsh and plainspoken words to describe our actions can help cut through excuses and rationalizations.