Point/Counterpoint: In Defense of Being Late All the Time

How to Be More Punctual


Getty/Melodie Jeng

When I first wrote about my chronic lateness a couple weeks ago, I knew it would spark an impassioned response. If there's anything my lack of punctuality has taught me over the years, it's that people are very divided on the subject: Many roll their eyes at "that friend" who always shows up after everyone else, while others sheepishly admit that they're guilty. Some carry anxiety about even being five minutes late, while others (like me) feel anxious at the prospect of arriving before anyone else.

But tackling the subject from a psychological point of view gave this habit a new kind of context. For me, it helped explain why I subconsciously feel the need to run down the clock so that I can more effectively take steps to address it. And hopefully, for those who are always punctual, it helped clarify the fact that more likely than not, their late friends aren't being intentionally rude at all.

Either way, it definitely kept the conversation going at Byrdie HQ—which is why we thought it only made sense to share excerpts from our lively email thread on the subject. Below, we discuss: What's really behind our punctuality (or lack thereof)?

Re: Being Punctual and Being Late

Victoria Hoff, wellness editor: I'll start off by saying that writing my story on my chronic lateness was certainly enlightening, even if I haven't exactly reformed my habit. (I'm trying!) I think it was especially interesting to learn about the different psychological profiles that often drive a lack of punctuality. For example, the expert I spoke to denoted one as The Idealist, aka the person who overestimates the time they have and thus tries to get a bunch of stuff done beforehand and/or doesn't leave early enough. When I told my mom about this, she literally cackled over the phone because my dad is NOTORIOUS for this, and I am so my father's daughter. But upon reflection, I'm learning that a lot of my lateness is also driven by social anxiety. It really makes me uncomfortable to be somewhere first, especially if I'm meeting someone I don't know all too well (if at all). I guess my question now is that now that I've identified why I'm late all the time, how do I change the habit? Do any of you feel similarly? Have you ever tried to reform? Has anything stuck? Or, if you're always punctual, what's your view on people who are late all the time?

Stephanie Limiti, social media editor: So interesting, I actually do the complete opposite: hate the idea of being late and almost prefer being the first person there as opposed to the last. If I am running late, I will start to feel anxious. I also always account for traffic and the potential of getting lost before leaving to go somewhere. I think this stems from the part of my personality that absolutely hates inconveniencing people and letting people down (part of my perfectionism, maybe?). The only times that I don't mind being late are with people I feel close to, like my boyfriend or my childhood friends. I actually tend to always be a bit late when I spend time with them because I know they don't care!

Amanda Montell, features editor: I'm with Stephanie. I hate the idea of keeping people waiting. I'd never want someone to think I didn't respect their time. If it's an event where punctuality doesn't really matter because it wouldn't be directly affecting anyone, like a party (or the exact time I show up to the office, haha), then I don't mind showing up on the later side. 

Erin Jahns, assistant editor: Agreed. I'm perpetually on time. In fact, I'll go to great (and oftentimes inconvenient) lengths to make sure I'm not late. For instance, I'll start getting ready or wake up an hour before I actually need to just to make sure I don't feel like a chicken running around with my head cut off before I start my day or head to an event. It's hard for me to regroup once "the frazzle" sets in.

Lindsey Metrus, managing editor: I'm similar to Victoria in that I try to squeeze in a bunch of things before I have to leave, but the real problem is I'll know full well that I won't have enough time to get ready and continue puttering around anyway. It's like I'm pushing out of my mind that I'll be eons late to wherever I'm going and reason that I won't have to deal with the reality until I'm on the subway or in the Uber in a full-on panic. It's upsetting to me because I know I'm being incredibly rude and selfish, yet I'm consistently 20 to 30 minutes late wherever I go. I think something that will (definitely) help is training myself to wake up earlier (and go to bed earlier) so I'm not running around like a tornado in the morning.

Victoria: To your point, Lindsey, that's why I think it's important to denote that many of us who are late are fully aware that it's rude and we really hate that we're being seen this way, even if it's technically in our power to do something about it. It goes deeper than that. Sometimes I wonder if it's a form of self-sabotage—if you have insecurities about your own likability, for example, and then being late is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Amanda: I get that, because if I'm going on a date or meeting a friend or co-worker at an agreed-upon time, or if I have a meeting or interview, being more than five minutes late would fill me with this immense anxiety that I'd be perceived as absent-minded or flaky. I really admire punctuality in other people too, or if they're going to be late then at least a heads-up beforehand because I see it as a sign of respect. My ex-boyfriend used to be late, stand me up, or flake out on me all the time, and that felt so thoughtless and like a weird manipulative power move, like he considered his time and obligations more important than mine, so now when people are super late, I feel that old same sting.

Hallie Gould, senior editor: I find myself most often in the "painfully punctual" category—I often just cannot be late, even if I try. I know how long it takes me to get ready, how long the train will take, etc. Mostly, I just get bored waiting around and want to get the show on the road. That being said, I've started to notice the "panic" that used to happen if I overslept or got stuck in traffic has dissipated. I don't know if that's me giving in to the idea that I no longer care if I'm late (because everyone else will likely be) or just a product of growing up and realizing it's not the end of the world.

Maya Allen, assistant editor: The concept of time is so scary. I definitely tread the line between being an on-time person and someone who is always an acceptable 10 minutes late. More often than not, I'm always five to 10 minutes late, and I rely so heavily on grace periods. I'm always praying that whoever I'm meeting or wherever I'm heading will have mercy on me. I trick my mind by being like, "They have to allot a 10-minute grace period—like, who is ever right on time?" I know it's not good, and to be honest, I hate the anxiety I feel even when I'm only a few minutes late. When I'm on time, I feel like I have my shit together. I'm so proud of myself when I'm punctual. On the other hand, I feel like my whole day is thrown off when I'm not. Rushing has legitimately brought me to tears because I felt like I was running my life's marathon. Being late makes me feel like the day is slipping away from me, which leads to me feeling counterproductive and unmotivated. To avoid this, I try to wake up earlier in the mornings to ease into my day so I'm not ever rushing. 

Erin: I also have a consistent fear of letting others down and that might play in subconsciously as well. Living in L.A. and dealing with the inevitable traffic has been the ultimate challenge, and I would say a lot of the time spent in my car is accompanied by panic and obsessively glancing at my GPS to see how close I'm cutting my ETA timing-wise. When I lived in San Francisco and used public transportation all the time, I felt so much relief because lateness was kind of out of my hands to a certain extent. But now I feel like I can't even blame traffic because I'm responsible for anticipating anything and everything since I'm driving myself. I kind of wish I were less neurotic about always being on time, but it's something that's really been instilled in me over the years and something I've also been complimented on. 

Hallie: I think for so long I had that intern mentality stuck inside me—the "early is on time and on time is late" mantra was drilled into our brains since college. Or maybe it's the fact I grew up with a father who arrived hours early and a mother who could never seem to leave the house on time. But now we have phones, emails, and about a million other things to keep us busy while we wait for that inevitably late friend. Sometimes I'm thankful for it.

What do you think? Are you hopelessly late or a stickler for being on time? Any pointers on reforming the habit? Join the thread by DM'ing us on Instagram.