Free advice: show up early

Delay happens. The train is late, the flight is cancelled, the traffic is murder. Travel is the leading edge of entropy, and entropy is the universe’s final comment on the meaning of it all. If the universe is expanding and there are snow delays on Route 1, it’s not your fault that you’re 15 minutes late to the meeting, right?

Don’t be so quick to excuse yourself. If 80% of success is just showing up, 90% is showing up early.

It’s hard for the client to sympathize with your lateness when she, who had farther to travel, managed to make the meeting on time. No matter how well you tell your story about the newbie cab driver who thought you said 114th Street, the client still sat waiting for you for twenty minutes after denying herself a Starbuck’s so she would be on time. Everyone in the room is a grownup, and, on the surface, your lateness isn’t an issue. But although nothing will be said, somehow the meeting will not turn out as well as expected.

Of course the conference organizers care that you, their keynote speaker, spent the night in the airport because of a cancelled flight. As sensitive human beings, they’d love to upgrade your room to a suite, hire you a masseuse, and send you to bed. But as business people who spent the morning juggling their schedule and making impromptu excuses to attendees because their keynote speaker showed up late, they will never hire you again.

How can a client blame you for a cab driver’s mistake? How can a conference organizer hold you accountable for an airline’s cancelled flight?

They can do it because lateness is part of the order of things, and grownup professionals plan for it, just as they plan for budget shortfalls and extra rounds of revision.

If you plan to arrive early, then you are covered when circumstances beyond your control conspire to make you late.

This is simple and obvious but many otherwise brilliant professionals clearly don’t think about it. The result is that they often arrive late. It’s never their fault, and yet it’s always the same people who are late.

I’m a bleeding heart. If your pet turtle dies, I’ll give you a month’s paid vacation. But promptness is a duty we owe people who pay for our services. So here’s some free advice. Give yourself more time to arrive than you reasonably need. If you work uptown and you have a meeting downtown in two hours, head downtown now. If you’re speaking on the opposite side of the continent early Monday morning, fly out Saturday, not Sunday. That way, you’ll be where you’re supposed to be, no matter what obstacles the weather, the airlines, and the TSA throw your way.

Love means never having to say you’re sorry, but client services means apologizing every five minutes. Give yourself one less thing to be sorry for. Take some free advice. Show up often, and show up early.


99 thoughts on “Free advice: show up early”

  1. Been there, done that. I give myself extra time and arrive 30-45 mins early to an interview or meeting. I’ll sit in the car and wait until about 15 mins, then walk in.

  2. For as long as I can remember, people teasingly make fun of me for my constant need to be places early. Meeting at 6? Be at the Starbucks next door at 5:15. Interview at 9am? I’m hovering in the area of the building by 7:45.

    After reading your post, Jeffrey, its made it pretty clear to me that why I do this is not because I dislike being late (which I do.) But I dislike having to start a meeting, a date, a conference, a day job, an anything on the wrong foot (with an apology.) There are millions of things I can’t control. Why let this little thing happen, which I can control.

  3. This is such great advice… Many thanks!
    Not only does ‘showing up early’ better influence the success ratio, it helps to mitigate/offset the multi-tasking we all do too much of. When I make it a point to stop multi-tasking in order to have plenty of time to get to an appointment I am, in fact, slowing down enough to catch up with myself. And that allows me to pay more attention during the scheduled opportunity which, generally, is very good news for my clients!
    I’m going to add a link to this article to my March KPG E-News You Can Use e-newsletter.
    Best, Karen

  4. I was an hour and a half late for my very first day at my first proper in house web design role many years ago. I was late due to the trains running late. I could have left earlier to ensure I got there on time but I didn’t know the trains were running late. They forgave me.

  5. Funny how this brings back words from my tyrant high-school band teacher who always repeated:

    If you’re early, you’re on time…
    If you’re on time, you’re late…
    If you’re late, you’re dead meat…

    Seems pretty true even more when you want to get paid.

  6. Well said, and something I really needed to hear. I often times plan to be “on time” and not “early.”

    A much fresher perspective is to plan to be early, and then sometimes you just might show up “on time” instead.

  7. Word. Shit always happens.

    Also alongside with this: if you have an important appointment someplace you’ve never been before, if possible, scope it out in advance so you know how to get there and where you are going and don’t wind up late because you parked in the wrong lot, etc.

  8. Right on! I would rather be somewhere early and be able to loosen up, relax and not be stressed over something that is totally within my control (really). In the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer, “Don’t blame it on traffic” and take responsibility for it, and plan.

  9. Amen Brother, Amen!

    I’m amazed at the number of people in business, who still either turn up late, or cut it too fine.

    Personally, I like to get to meetings early, it means I can grab a drink, use the bathroom, read through my notes, get prepared etc.

    I’ve one client, who will remain nameless, that still believes / blames his SatNav “Well it told me 31 miles would take 45mins.. so I left 45 minutes before the meeting” WTF? Madness!

  10. Punctuality has always been a huge indicator of a person’s reliability to me. People that tend to be tardy often are usually individuals who lack interest and are irresponsible by nature.

    If you want to be on time, you will be on time. No excuses…

  11. heh, I did just remember a discussion I heard where the consensus was, showing up late shows in the worst cases a severe lack of respect for those who are to meet. While showing up too early shows just as much a lack of respect (in the worst cases).

    In other words, I’m late, but it’s ok because YOU will wait for me. As opposed to, hey I’m early… so, why don’t you just meet with me NOW.

    So if early is on time, too early is the new late?

  12. Can’t agree any more on this matter!

    I’ve always preferred to be early anywhere in my life, just because I didn’t want to be the one that someone has to wait for. I’ve always lived by this rule and don’t plan on changing it!!! ;-)

  13. Here, here! Lateness is one thing I have ZERO tolerance for. I also live by “if you’re not early you’re late.” It’s inexcusable and shows a lack of respect for the other people you are meeting with.

  14. As it happens in my company operating as we do across three time zones has only one overt rule summed up thusly; “Do what you say you are going to do, when you said you would do it”.

    etienne taylor
    ceo
    clinical trial select inc.

  15. I had someone give me the 10-10 rule early in my career: Always show up to a meeting 10 minutes early, never wait beyond 10 minutes past the start time if the client doesn’t show up without word. The respect goes two ways.

  16. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that people take punctuality far too seriously. There are times when it is entirely unavoidable and people need to be a bit more understanding.

    I once left 5 1/2 hours early for a drive that in worst case scenarios should take no more than an hour and a 1/2. We figured we’d do some shopping before dinner to kill all the extra time. That day, traffic was insane — even using the GPS to get on and off the highway didn’t help. There were at least 4 traffic accidents on the route. We got to our destination 30 minutes late. There was absolutely nothing that we could have done to get there on time.

    Saying that a conference speaker should go up a day earlier is asking a bit much. Their time is valuable and the added flight, hotel & car rental expenses would most likely be out of their pocket.

    My hope for all of you who agree with this post so strongly is that you too experience being late beyond your control so that you can be more understanding when things happen that make people late.

    Dealing with people being late is part of life. How you choose to react to it is up to you. You can make it ruin your day/night/life/whatever, or you can accept it, shrug it off, and move on.

  17. Saying that a conference speaker should go up a day earlier is asking a bit much. Their time is valuable and the added flight, hotel & car rental expenses would most likely be out of their pocket.

    Not at our conference.

  18. I agree, and I always say that I’d rather be 10 minutes early than 1 minute late. Now if I could just get my wife to share that mentality…

    I would like to point out a little cultural nugget of information I learned a couple of years ago. At the time, I worked for a Native American-owned company, and as a result, a lot of our clients were tribes and other Indian companies. I learned a lot about the culture, and much of what I learned should, in my opinion, be required learning for every citizen of the United States.

    Given my above statement regarding punctuality, one thing that used to drive me nuts was that clients were often late to meetings – even if I had a finite window of time to meet with them because I had traveled over 300 miles on one leg of my same-day round-trip.

    At some point, one of my native co-workers explained to me the Native American mentality about time. Basically, if an Indian person shows up late to a meeting with a non-Indian, the non-Indian will usually view it as a slight against them; a sign that the Indian doesn’t care enough to show up on time. However, if two natives are going to meet and one shows up late, the “on time” party is understanding. In Native Country, it is more important to show respect not by being on time to a meeting, but by being attentive to the person with whom you’re meeting. If you have another meeting scheduled but haven’t concluded your business with the person with whom you’re currently meeting, you simply stay and finish your business. When you get to the next meeting, you extend the same courtesy. This mentality meant that tribal council meetings would often go on for days, and we were left waiting until the next day on more than one occasion.

    Now, this is just how it was explained to me, and I’m certain it’s not a universal truth of all Native Americans. Not being native myself, I can’t vet the above, but since the person who told me is native, I’ll take them at their word. Perhaps someone who is actually Native American can chime in.

  19. Out on a limb: “There was absolutely nothing that we could have done to get there on time.”

    From the post: “If you plan to arrive early, then you are covered when circumstances beyond your control conspire to make you late.”

    You were covered. As would be anyone in a similar situation. Jeffrey didn’t say that there are never any excuses for being late.

    And as Jeffery says for our show, so it is with nearly all shows. Travel expenses, including lodging, are paid. And any conference organizer I can think of would gladly pay an “extra” night’s hotel stay in exchange for the security of knowing the speaker won’t be late. (Extenuating circumstances aside.) We don’t even regard it as being extra, which I think is a view most organizers would also share.

  20. Not at our conference.

    Ok, that is really great. I mean that sincerely. I know that is certainly not the case with all conferences, but I’ll give you that one. What about the value of their time? A day early could mean not getting paid for another event or just as important, not seeing your kid play their baseball game.

    Given that your reply was only in reference to your conference, I’m going to venture a guess that your blog post was prompted by being burned by a late speaker. If so, then perhaps that given you’re willing to pay for the extra expenses, you should require all speakers to commit to coming in early. This way, you’re safe from hostile conference attendees due to late speakers.

  21. I’d like to tattoo this on my chest backwards so that I can read it in the mirror every morning. I understand that it mostly applies to a speaking engagement, but its universality is easy to grasp.

    And as someone with a little insight into the professional speaking industry, I can see how quickly any speaker can get blacklisted for difficult behaviour.

  22. Given that your reply was only in reference to your conference, I’m going to venture a guess that your blog post was prompted by being burned by a late speaker.

    We’ve not been burned by a missing speaker. I don’t believe in using blogs to send disguised private messages.

    You asked whether conferences cover travel and hotel: I told you ours did. I spoke for An Event Apart because I can. I can’t speak to the compensation arrangements other conferences make with their speakers, even if I know what those arrangements are. I don’t have the right to disclose other companies’ business arrangements with their speakers.

    perhaps that given you’re willing to pay for the extra expenses, you should require all speakers to commit to coming in early.

    Thanks for the suggestion. Again, my point was not to complain about a speaker stiffing AEA’s attendees; no such stiffing has occurred. The purpose of this post was to offer a general recommendation to my friends in this business. You want to succeed; I want you to succeed; planning ahead so that you are rarely late to an engagement is one way to help achieve success.

  23. So important to be on time. Some people think that just because they have a cell phone it means they can call to let someone know they’ll be late for a meeting, but if someone sets a time, it means they shouldn’t have to field multiple logistical calls.

    I schedule a trip to arrive early. Then I come in and apologize for arriving early (“Sorry I’m a bit early, there was no traffic!”) and then make it clear I do not expect the other person to re-arrange their schedule to meet early. I sit down in reception and make myself busy.

    All that being said, there are times where it is simply beyond one’s control, like where you allot an hour for a 20-minute trip and still wind up being late because of an accident or something. That’s the only time you should use the phone to call ahead and apologize for being late. The routine calls of “I’m running 15 minutes behind” are so annoying.

  24. Eric:

    All that being said, there are times where it is simply beyond one’s control, like where you allot an hour for a 20-minute trip and still wind up being late because of an accident or something. That’s the only time you should use the phone to call ahead and apologize for being late. The routine calls of “I’m running 15 minutes behind” are so annoying.

    Agreed.

  25. Anyone who knows me well will know that I pride myself on being on time, this usually means showing up early and planning for delays. As well, if I even think I’ll be late I let everyone know well in advance. To me it’s a matter of respect for others. Time is one of my most valued commodities and I’d guess many of you would say the same.

    If someone wants to be late on their own time, that’s fine with me, but as soon as I’m pulled in, well then it feels a bit personal.

    Whenever I hear someone whip out an excuse for being late it pisses me off. I find it incredibly disrespectful. Seriously, i think, “This person thinks their time is worth more than mine.”

    Well said and thanks for saying.

  26. To account for the possibility of cancelled flights, I assume you will be putting up your speakers in hotels for one extra night in advance.

    Adults take reasonable precautions to arrive on time. Those same precautions may be nullified by forces outside their control, such nullification obviously being quite enough in many cases to also nullify any planned early arrival.

    Something tells me you are using this posting to talk in public to a private someone.

  27. I can speak as an habitually late person: this is awesome advice. And kids, let me tell you, you’ll lose jobs and money and respect by not following it.

    I can speak only for myself, though, when I say that I’m late because of a thousand reasons, but never because I lack respect for my business associates. I don’t think my time is more valuable than yours. In fact, my tardiness is a form of self-inflicted punishment. I won’t go into my handicaps, but you successful people should know that sometimes the folks who show up late are just lovable losers and not trying to stick it to you.

    Of course, in the end, we’re unreliable just the same.

  28. Thanks for the clarification Jeff. I’m sure other readers appreciate it too. Where there’s one, there’s usually others who agree.

    I was pleased to see you say, “planning ahead so that you are rarely late” is your intended advice and that you agreed with Eric when he wrote, “there are times where it is simply beyond one’s control”.

    I went out on a limb to disagree merely because it really sounded as though you and many commentators think/feel there’s never any good excuse for being late or that it is never acceptable. As with most things, this is (for me at least) another one of those things where there’s room for exception on a case by case basis.

    Please know you have my respect and appreciation for sharing your views, however similar or different they are to my own.

  29. @Joe Clark said:

    Something tells me you are using this posting to talk in public to a private someone.

    As I mentioned several comments ago, I’m definitely not doing that. I’m not a big fan of “hidden messages.” I prefer to be direct. But you know that, because you’ve written for A List Apart, so you know what I’m like when communicating with colleagues: respectful, clear, and as direct as I can be.

  30. @Out on a Limb:

    Most of my so-called wisdom, what little there is of it, comes from my having made many mistakes.

    Early in my working life, I was the guy who showed up late, left early, did the minimum, and so on. Partly it’s because I wasn’t suited to the work I was doing—the web didn’t exist yet, and I didn’t love what I was doing like I would later love the web.

    But whether I loved my work or not, I expected to be paid for it, and I had a fairly high opinion of my own talent. I would have gone much farther with a better attitude. My employers deserved more of me. I’m surprised at how tolerant they were.

    I don’t regret my many failures. They drove me to this new medium, where every day is an adventure. I also don’t regret any failures that are behind me instead of ahead of me. I learned lessons, often the hard way. When I make a public suggestion, it’s out of compassion and love, not arrogance.

    I’ve been every kind of dumbass there is—except for the kinds I have yet to become.

  31. @Jonathan:

    In fact, my tardiness is a form of self-inflicted punishment. I won’t go into my handicaps, but you successful people should know that sometimes the folks who show up late are just lovable losers and not trying to stick it to you.

    I’ve been there, and done worse. If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: you are not a loser, and you can change.

    :)

  32. @Jeffrey Zeldman

    I don’t regret my many failures. They drove me to this new medium, where every day is an adventure. I also don’t regret any failures that are behind me instead of ahead of me. I learned lessons, often the hard way. When I make a public suggestion, it’s out of compassion and love, not arrogance.

    I’ve been every kind of dumbass there is—except for the kinds I have yet to become.

    I hope to get to this place some day soon, as much of this comment has “me” written all over it. Thanks for the great insight.

  33. I’m one of those people who is early for everything but it surprises me how casual people are about getting somewhere on time.

    I recently attended a job interview where the interviewer was so impressed that I had turned up ahead of time.

    After speaking with her later on she told me that apart from interviewing well and being right for the job a large factor in me getting the position was that I turned up on time.

    It is more important than a lot of people think. I too have been one of those people waiting around for someone to turn up on time, and considering I’m also always early it is a pain. Do you really want to do that to your clients and business associates?

  34. Maybe shouldn’t spread this around too much?

    This is how many of us who are maybe a little bit less talented can prosper and get the job, while so many who are maybe a bit more talented, but often late, do not.

    ^o^—the never late bat

  35. @Jeff, Reading your last message made me think, I could have written the same thing; I can very much relate to that. Thanks again.

  36. i firmly believe that in the course of a normal persons life, they will be all these things and more; an early arriver, a late arriver, a just on timer, etc….
    I myself have been all those things, and just as well, have been the person on the other end, listening to the excuses.
    One thing is for certain.
    Being early is always the right answer. Period.
    Being early has gotten me the job, impressed the right people, given me time to collect myself and simply made life easier. Being late for anything in life has given me nothing but a stomach full of fear and head sizzling with ‘what will I say to make up for this’.
    That being said however, I think we can all agree that every event in life has it’s variables, and many of them are beyond our control. You CAN control being on time in most cases, and therefor should endevor to do so.
    If, for some strange reason, you have to deliver a baby en-route to an event or are tardy for some other ‘act of god’ reason, most people will understand and forgive.
    Hell. If the story you give is good enough (and hopefully true) you may even be asked back.

    Life is funny that way.

  37. Early in another life, I was a truck driver. I hauled Steelcase office furniture. The cost of being late was 150.00 per man per hour that had to wait to unload my cargo. One summer I worked 6 weekends to deliver to the New World Center at 9rh and 50th. A 17 hour commute that I was never late for.

    It was six months later and again I worked with the same crew. The foreman recognized me (called me by name) and remarked how I was always on time. Gave me a $20.00 told me to go find breakfast while they took care of my truck. I developed a freindship with him because I never jerked him around. That my time was as important as his. There is no excuse to be late. People who provide excuses are just telling you that they come first that they matter and you don’t. That is just bullshit.

  38. I once blew an interview due to 5 minutes of legitimate tardiness. Never again. Or, quoth Shakespeare, “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”

  39. I very much agree with this Jeffrey. I would add though that if you arrive early for a meeting or a job interview, just wait somewhere nearby until the specified time.

    That way you don’t disrupt the people you are meeting as they also prepare to be on time.

  40. Great article-
    When I have an appointment, especially on the other side of town, state or country, I give plenty of time to get there. There is nothing worse than walking into a meeting, all stressed out about the travel getting there. Arriving properly early gives me the time needed to get my head wrapped around the situation.

    When I have someone coming to me, either as a potential client or vendor, their arriving early or late tells me a great deal about them. Whether a client is early or late for the first meeting has been a good indicator as to how a client treats projects.

  41. I have a partner who sets his clocks ahead by at least 20 minutes. He is always on time – no early. Learning quite a bit by his example. I have been earlier than ever more than ever.

  42. I have a professor this semester (I’m a 3rd year graphic design student) who announced one thing on the first day of class: Being late is RUDE.

    He was right, and he went on to say that we all understand that sometimes you’re going to be late; sometimes, no matter how hard you try to be early, things don’t go your way; sometimes late is the best you’re capable of. But being late just makes you look disorganized, unprofessional, and as if you just don’t care (about the class, the people, the meeting, whatever).

    He then followed up with how he used to NOT give his students this lecture, but then it dawned on him that students just DON’T KNOW that being late is RUDE. So now he tells every member of our class that, if you’re going to be late, sneak in as quietly as possible, and be sure to have an apologetic look on your face – no one actually cares what your excuse was.

    Thank you for sharing this with people who may not have had my professor (or one like him), and never learned this lesson.

  43. This is great advice. I am little more than an HTML hack but have experienced modest success in my career so far just by showing up early all the time. Being early is a very sneaky way to get ahead. Thanks Mr. Zeldman!

  44. Punctuality is important. But what about those willing to stay late?

    I’ve seen so many promising careers stifled by the 5:00, Yabba-dabba-doo!
    Even if your manager says “it’s cool to leave,” if you want to make an impression 2-3 steps up the food chain, be willing to stay late. Anytime. Some of my biggest career opportunities have happened after hours.

    The first to arrive and the last to leave are the ones who get the breaks. Always.

  45. Not only are you late but then you spend the next 10 minutes telling me that you were late. Now we have lost 30 minutes of a 1 hour meeting.

    All very good points!

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  47. In business, if I am not there before you, I have a problem with it. I am usually 30-45 minutes early.

    If I am going somewhere with the wife and kids its a different story. Despite telling the wife that it starts an hour before it really does, we are late. This is something I had to learn to except. With her I ask myself “Will this matter in a month?” Nine times out of ten it wont.

  48. My interest in web design has been stirred since trying to find someone to do design a site for my new travel business. Have since commissioned Andy Clarke of Stuff & Nonsense to get it done and he’s done wonders. Have found it inspiring following people like Andy Clarke, you and Andy Rutledge for your professional attitude to your profession.

    This post was filled me with a touch of self-loathing and a renewed challenge to be better and as good as most of the people posting here. But I was moved to write at the kindness and compassion you showed to in your comment to @Jonathan on February 5th at 4.47pm:

    “I’ve been there, and done worse. If I could tell you one thing, it would be this: you are not a loser, and you can change.

    :)”

    I have even greater respect for what you say because genuinely your motivation seem to be to help and not condemn…

    Thanks for the lesson and the further lesson in how to impart a lesson with grace.
    Saqib

  49. I used to be Mr. Tardy in my teens and even 20’s – chronically late. One time in the 90’s [I was 25], my business partner was late for meeting, holding up the General Manager of a beachfront resort at the shore. This GM was former military, but you couldn’t tell. He was always such a nice, agreeable, jovial guy. We really looked up to him and admired him. My partner at the time, who is actually an extremely hard worker, shows up 10 or 15 minutes late, breathing heavy, “Sorry I’m late.” The GM stood up from his desk with a stolid expression, did not shake my partner’s hand, but instead looks him dead in the eyes while tapping his index finger hard on his desk, “Michael… 9 o’cock means 8:45.” That was it. Keeping it so short, simple, and not ranting, gave it even more impact. The room fell silent while it set into everyone like molten lead. Mike’s blood ran cold. The GM went back to being his usual all-smiles, even-tempered self. I realized just how correct that GM was. Neither of us has been late for a meeting since.

    Another moment that solidified it for me was one time when my brother-in-law and I were waiting for my sister to get ready [also back in the 90's]. We merely had to be at a family function over Christmas break. Up until that point, I always considered family functions as highly flexible with regard to arrival times. But my brother-in-law was getting very antsy and I asked why, he said, “Someone tells you to be somewhere at a certain time, you be there.” He absolutely HATES being late. Of course, I had heard that sentence before, but for some reason, at that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks.

    There’s a stand-up comic routine about this. I think it might be Ellen.

    She goes, “What do people always say when they’re late? ‘*sigh* Sorry. Traffic.'” holding her hand to her forehead.

    I go, ‘WE’RE here. Ya think we teleported through the traffic? Maybe landed our chopper in the back?'”

    So true.

    I realized just how disrespectful being late is. It’s impolite. It’s obnoxious and downright rude. It sends the message that you believe your time is more valuable than others’. Frankly, it sends a big “F.U.” to those you are meeting with. I also paints your superiors and peers in a bad light. They hired you [or partnered with you], have spoken highly of you to these people, and are relying on you to be on time and portray a good image of the organization. Being late makes it look like your superiors hired some chucklehead loser who can’t even make a meeting. Being late has nothing but ill effects, across the board, to you and many around you.

    It’s amazing how many people don’t realize this. I’ve conveyed these concepts to people I know are chronically late and they look at me perplexed – like it never dawned on them how utterly insolent it is. Some of these people are 40 years old and have never had the word “Manager” in their title. Do you think a manager is going to promote [or higher for a freelance job] the person who is reliable and consistently on time, or Mr. Tardy?

  50. Oh, if I had a dollar for every time a boss told me “you don’t need to leave for another half hour, it doesn’t take that long to get to _____” …

    I used to feel like I wasted a lot of time sitting and waiting at places when I was always way too early, but knowing a few of those people who are always 5 minutes late for everything, I’d rather lose time than respect. Time I get a new batch of the next day.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  51. When I first read this…I thought Hallelujah! And I also felt guilty, having fallen into the culture of running late that pervades my company. I thought that I should start to review my practices and even took your advice about flying a day early on a trip I’m taking this week.

    This morning I found myself sitting by myself in a conference room for over 15 minutes…no phone call…and a slight apology due to the skiff of snow we had on the ground. Arrgggh.

  52. A self-employed consultant friend of mine was once invited to speak on an important panel with an academic and a government bureaucrat. My self-employed friend showed up a half-hour early and spent the extra time talking with attendees. The academic walked in exactly on time, and the government guy showed up a half hour late. ‘Nuff said.

  53. No wonder iPods/Phones/Pads are so popular for this audience. There’s so much time to kill whenever you aren’t delayed and built in a big margin.

  54. As always things are relative. I live in a country that taught me listening attentively and finishing a conversation also have great value (as in the comment about native americans above).

    I think it depends a lot on the number of people that you make waiting for you. If you are the keynote speaker you shouldn’t be late, period. If it is a one on one business meeting, one can be late if the previous meeting required more time. If someone repeatedly shows up late in a meeting where 5 people are waiting for him/her, well in that case he/she should adapt. If your meeting partner(s) will be late as well probably, as over here in Argentina the average delay is 30 minutes, then you just live with that and adopt.

    End of the story for me is that you should not let artificial rules about how it should be (you should not be late) stand in the way of personal respect, both as the late arriver as well as the waiting party.

  55. I used to get out of bed late. Always got out of the door a little too late. Stressing to get the train, stressing not to be late for work. But then i found out how rewarding it is to get out of the door well in time. It’s sooooo relaxing not being in a hurry all the time! Now when the trains are late i just stay calm, watching all the others around me being in great panic! But i don’t care, i can wait 10-15 min. for the next train and still be on time. While people stress by me crossing the red lights in great danger to get run over, i just stand in Zen waiting for the lights to go green. Damn it’s so good for the soul, and leaves so much extra energy.

  56. I completely agree here – not only does it make you more calm, relaxed and focus if you are not rushing in at the last minute, it really does cause you to slow down, and even creates opportunities to network with other early birds before the meeting. But one point to note – if you are showing up for a meeting at someone else’s location, don’t show up at their office an hour early! even 30 minutes is a bit excessive. On the chance that they aren’t as prepared as you, or they are in another meeting, it makes everyone uncomfortable and creates stress for them. What do we do with this guy until we’re ready for him? Dammit, I haven’t got my tie on yet…

    15 minutes is plenty early if you ask me, and if you arrive earlier than that, find a cool place to hang out, get caught up, etc. until it’s closer to meeting time.

  57. Beautifully written as always Jeffrey and excellent comments from all.

    As someone who’s been working diligently to change my relationship with time for meetings, I’ll just add a tip that’s working for me in the event it may help others who can have difficulty with timeliness:

    You may not experience the feeling of time and schedules until there’s great pressure (see http://visual-spatial.org and deadline-driven artists). That means it’s important to create new habits and not rely on “feeling” as a sensor because it’s not giving you information until it’s too late. Enter every meeting in your calendar with a buffer of time needed to get there. Then set alarms on every event in in your calendar to give you an extra chunk of time on top of that. The new habit is intellectual and feels unnatural. That’s the point. Once you do it enough, you develop a new feeling.

  58. I agree completely. I had to deal with this situation this past Saturday. I am a photographer and I set up a photo shoot with a fashion designer. I live about an hour and 20 minutes away from where the shoot was so we left two hours early because I know my iPhone GPS likes to take us to the wrong place all the time. We got there with plenty of time to spare.

    My makeup artist lives two hours away from the shoot location and she texted me saying she was leaving at 8am to make the 10am call time. She didn’t give herself any time in case she got lost, which she did and showed up 30 minutes late, leaving me, the designer, and the model just sitting around waiting for her to show up. It made me look bad because I brought her in to do hair and makeup. And on top of that she took two hours doing hair and only left me 45 minutes to shoot. As much as I love the girl, it really makes me not want to ask her to assist me on a shoot again.

    I had to stop using an intern because I sat outside his house calling him and knocking on his door for 20 minutes. We were picking him up to take on a photo shoot. He knew what time we were picking him up and once he realized I was calling him, he took another five minutes to leave the house. I never asked him to help on a shoot again.

    It seems like such common sense to be on time but so many people just don’t get it.

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