The High Cost of Being Late

Are you a punctual person? Do you get to your appointments on time? If you’re normally on time for business appointments, do you also extend that courtesy to social occasions or hanging out with friends? Are you the person who comes late to a movie and climbs over people in the dark? Worse, are you late to a popular movie and ask people to move down a seat so you and your partner can sit together? Does it really make much difference if you’re a few minutes late? In the grand scheme of things, do you really lose much by being just a little late?

I am a huge believer in the power of punctuality. If you are already a punctual person you can safely skip the rest of this article and get on to your next task. Gold star for you! But if you’re not punctual, I beg you to keep reading.

Being late can cost you a job
I am currently in the process of hiring new babysitters for my kids. I lined up interviews with 6 young women. I sent them my address and an appointment time. Only one out of the 6 came on time. In fact, she was 3 minutes early. All of them had the same skills, availability, references, and experience, so when it came time to differentiating them and determining who to hire, I chose the one who came to the interview on time. Why?

Being on time showed me she could plan. She determined how long it would take to get to my house and made sure she accounted for traffic. Being on time told me she was aware of the clock, which means when I tell her to put my child to bed at 8pm she will likely be aware enough to know what time it is. And being on time told me she cared about making a good impression and took the interview seriously. Those were all qualities I want in a sitter, and she got the job.

How do you think a potential employer feels if you are late to an interview? Believe me, if he is sitting there waiting for you to get to an interview he is not thinking positively about you while waiting. The later you are, the more time he has to form a negative impression. To him, your lateness indicates that you don’t mind wasting someone’s time. It means you cannot plan. It means you do not care. And it means you may have an efficiency problem. Your employer makes assumptions based on your actions, not your reasons or excuses.

If you are currently in the job market, heed my advice: Do not be late for your interviews. Even if you have to get there 10 minutes early and sit in the car, that’s better than rushing in late and winded. Show some respect to your future boss and don’t waste his/her time. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Being late can cost you friends
Do you show up late to lunch with friends? “Oh Julie, I’m so sorry I’m late again. I just lost track of time, and then I had to feed the dog and take him for a quick walk, and then I was on the phone and just couldn’t get off. But I’m here now. I hope you haven’t been waiting long.” Being late with friends occasionally is probably no big deal. Do it repeatedly or all the time, and you’re going to put a huge strain on the friendship. What do you think your friends think when you are late? Maybe they think you don’t respect them. Maybe they think you are unreliable. And maybe they think you are inefficient. Is it really fair to make your friends wait for you? They probably had other things to do too, yet you’ve made them sit somewhere while you got a bunch of things done for yourself. Maybe you have forgiving friends, but if you find that your friends tell you to arrive 15 minutes earlier than they actually intend to arrive, that’s probably a sign that you’re a late comer being handled and managed. Don’t do that to your friends. Respect them enough to be where you say you’re going to be at the time you say you’re going to be there.

Years ago my friends and I had a group member who was always late. We would wait and wait for him before going to dinner or to the movies and sometimes he’d be so late we’d miss the movie. It didn’t take us long to stop making plans with him. We started telling him our plans and said, “Catch up with us if you want.” We stopped waiting. Before long, he stopped coming since he always came in the middle of dinner or the movies. In short, it was annoying, and eventually he was squeezed out of our group. He didn’t fare much better in other groups he gravitated towards.

Being late can cost you your reputation
One of the things I pride myself most on is my punctuality when I do readings for people. I book readings with just 15 minutes in between clients so I don’t have time to mess around. When my clock shows me that it’s 30 seconds until a person’s reading time, I start dialing. I often hear people answer the phone and say, “Wow, right on the dot!” Or “My goodness, you’re punctual.” Do you know what happens if I’m not punctual? Imagine you’ve sent a woman you never met hundreds of dollars in advance and all you have is a promise that she will call you weeks later. You sit by your phone. If she calls you on time, you’re impressed. If she is even one minute late, you start to wonder if she’s ever going to call. What if you sent your money to a fraud? What if this fraud is sitting in aruba drinking a cocktail and laughing at your gullibility. Is that how I want to start a reading? With someone who is upset, anxious, afraid, and angry? No way. My reputation is on the line. If I say I’m going to call at 1pm, you can be sure your phone will ring at 1pm. I know my clients appreciate it, and I know it raises their vibration knowing they can trust me.

Alternatively, I know someone in the same business as me who feels it’s completely okay to play fast and loose with appointment times. “I’m the talent, they’ll wait for me. What are they going to do? If they want a reading, they’ll wait.” I’ve been told he also cancels appointments on a whim and doesn’t even notify his client in advance. Just waits for them to squawk angrily through email. Then he reschedules with them. That is just rude. Do you think they trust he’ll call the second time?

Being late can cost you time and money
Have you ever been late to an event, a flight, a tour, or something else that won’t wait for you if you’re late? What usually happens? You get bumped, your tickets are given away, you miss out on something you paid for, etc. And for what? Poor planning? Unexpected delays that weren’t factored into the timing equation? How much time and money have you lost from being late?

I have one friend who tends to run a little late because he assumes that all is going to go perfectly when he travels. So I’ll hear him say, “My plane leaves at 3pm. It takes 15 minutes to get to the airport, maybe 10 minutes to get through check in, another 20 for security, and I just need to be there 30 minutes before my plane departs. So I’ll leave at 1:30pm.” Invariably he will call me and tell me how he missed his flight. “There was traffic on the freeway. Some accident. Then we got to the airport and had to park really far away. The shuttle driver waited an extra 5 minutes for some slow people to get to the shuttle, then the check in lady gave me hock because I printed my boarding pass on fax paper. The security line was way longer than usual, and I took a wrong turn to get to my terminal. And get this! Even though I arrived 5 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off, they gave my seat to someone else and made me wait 3 hours for another flight.” I’ve tried to explain to him that factors beyond his control should always be taken into consideration when making plans with strict deadlines. He just doesn’t want to sit at the airport so long so he takes his chances. He’s missed many flights, and probably spent more time waiting for another flight than he would have if he had planned better in the first place. I never fly with him.

The Benefits of Being on Time
Getting to your destination early or on time can reap huge rewards. You get to the top of the waiting list. You make a good impression on a boss or potential boss. You earn a reputation of being someone others can count on. You demonstrate integrity. You show efficiency and dedication. You can jump on unexpected opportunities. You don’t miss out on anything. You even get to see movie previews! ;)

If you’re not usually a punctual person, try a 30-day trial of being ridiculously punctual and see what you’ve been missing. There’s a whole new world waiting for you.

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