The Human Puzzle of Lateness

You remember that scene from Home Alone where Kelvin’s family were dashing through the airport in a rush to get into the airplane for the holiday flight? That’s how some people live every day.

late-manner-matters-shutterstock_152063153Punctuality is an issue we all deal with in our lives. Friendships and other forms of relationships are all influenced by the decision of how we and other people perceive time. In business deals, strategic meetings and informal hangouts, people (sometimes including you and I) arrive late. Even in religious settings people still look at their watches and stare at the wall clocks as the cleric rambles on in sermon. Sometimes we make jokes about some of our friends who are chronic latecomers being late to their weddings ;). We all want to get things done on time, but in reality, we don’t usually get this wish fulfilled. I may say that I would be at a meeting by 5 pm but sometimes with a long face and an apologetic smile I turn up at 5.15 pm. That’s for me. Some folks would come in even an hour late and not even utter a simple “I’m sorry for coming in this late.”

This in effect has event organisers in this part of the world factor in what we have popularly known as ‘African time’ into the planning and execution of events. If on the invite a time of 4 pm is indicated as the start up time, they actually mean to start by 6 pm. You wouldn’t totally blame them for this time perspective since they understand the dominant logic of most Nigerians is to procrastinate arrival time by at least thirty minutes because they think the event would not have started, so it becomes a cycle of time loss and ineffectiveness in the society and our culture. But then where do we draw the line to this time madness? Read on to know what I think.

Before I however share on how to deal with late coming, I’d like to outline some of the reasons I suppose that people arrive late. One is upbringing. We are a product of nature and nurture. How our parents have raised us in attending to things on time have a major role to play in time management. In my research for this article, I came across a post by someone who had internalised his late coming as a part of himself and believed that nothing could be done about it. He gave a reason that he had been two weeks late for delivery as a baby. Now that’s an already wrong perception of self that needs changing. Another salient reason is improper planning. Many a time we fail to put in the right measures to get things done until the last moment when we enter rush hour. At this point, adrenaline may be abundant and fun may be plenty, but it gets boring after a while of always rushing though things. In my experience, I have noticed that every time I rushed out of the room to class or a meeting, I most likely would have forgotten something necessary like my mobile phone. You should see the look on my face upon the discovery. A popular reason in my research is that people show up late for appointments because of their optimism bias. They have their heads in the clouds enough to believe that there wouldn’t be traffic on the road, the car would definitely start and the water would be available when they needed it and everything would go just fine…but it never happens as such. Culture too is an explanation for late coming. Europeans are more likely to show up on time than are South Asians. Finally people can be late because they underestimate the time it would take to prepare to leave. They assume that it would take them 30 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to commute to their destination when it actually takes more time than that.

Without further ado, let’s explore how to deal with late coming. It is popularly said that to change the world, begin with yourself. Here are some tips for improving on your punctuality skills:

  • Determine to always be on time. Let punctuality be a top priority for you.
  • As simple as it may sound, use a wristwatch. That classical gadget is not basically a fashion accessory but also for keeping you time conscious.
  • Set your watch to 15 minutes earlier than the normal time to keep you on your toes.
  • Come on! Don’t snooze that alarm again. If Rihanna says Shut up and Drive, I say Get up and Go! Do what you have to do immediately, not later. If you don’t do it now, it might never get done.
  • Start to prepare for an appointment at least an hour before the stipulated time (probably two hours for the ladies). Bathing, using make-up, and what not should be factored in when preparing to head out.
  • Drop whatever that you are doing and move. Don’t get distracted by the guitar or the new ping on your phone.

In the bid to help that friend of yours with a brand as a chronic late comer, here are also a few tips to help him/her:

  • Don’t smile away your irritation; let them know how you feel about this attitude and how much it is ineffective and unproductive for you. But in doing so, use only “I” statements, not “you” statements.  “I’m uncomfortable with having to cover for you.”  “This makes doing excellent work more difficult.”
  • Don’t permanently label them as latecomers because they most likely will want to continue to live up to that image. Rather simply say, “Gee, it’s not like you to be late.” Trust me, it works.
  • Reward them each time they make it early. We are bound to repeat behaviours with pleasurable consequences. Say a word of praise or package a small gift for them every time they make it on time.
  • Give an earlier arrival time different from everybody else. Fine, this may work for the first two times; you’d have at least tried to correct the chronic state of the behaviour.
  • Inform your friend that with or without him, you would move on. You don’t have to stall everything just for one person. It’s not threatening but loving! Your time is valuable too!

With these tips, I am quite assured that your rating of 2 as a perpetual late comer would improve to 9 as a punctual team member on a scale of 0-10, 0 being always late to 10 as never late.

© Oluwatobi Gbemisola 2015.

Image credit:

Thank you for reading through this week’s #Reflexions. Please share your thoughts on this. Why are people usually late and how do we deal with it? I would like to hear what you think.


12 thoughts on “The Human Puzzle of Lateness

  1. Wow! This is so impactful. Even though I read through the tweets yesterday, reading through it out was even more thrilling. Many of us need to look into this, I inclusive. Well-done! Keep adding value. Keep being relevant. (Y)


  2. That’s one battle I’ve been fighting and winning gradually.. I just make sure I wake up 5:30am for a 8am class. Can you imagine? Been helpful tho.


    • Wow! 5am for a 8am class! What a wawu! It’s great to know that you’re working on it. The key is being consistent with this improvement. All the best! and thank you for coming by The Reflexions Blog!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s