Interpreting punctuality: what is on time, and what is late? (Part I)

If someone tells me a class, an appointment or an event begins at 9 am, I am going to make every effort to arrive at the destination at least ten minutes before 9 am.

This is what punctual means to me.

Likewise, if I was told to hand in a school assignment on Tuesday the 22nd, and my class for which the assignment was for is scheduled from 2-3 pm, I would have my assignment ready to be handed in on Tuesday the 22nd at 2 pm.

Not email it to the teacher five minutes to midnight on Tuesday the 22nd.

This is how I interpret on time performance.

Here’ s another scenario. If someone in my family has a game to play at 6 pm, needs to be there at 5 pm for warmup, my general question is: what time do you want to leave?

I expect a very clear and concise answer. I need the answer to incorporate the location, i.e. the time it takes to drive there, as well. I want to hear “we’ll leave at 4:30 pm” and not “I guess we can leave sometime after 4”.

With kids, I want to ensure they eat properly before heading out for their activity. Eating takes time…as does preparing their meal.

I also take their answer very literally. If they say ‘leave at 4:30’ I interpret this as pulling out of the driveway at that time.


Ha ha ha.

They do not pull out of the driveway at that time. Unless it’s me who’s doing the driving.

Trust me when I say to my kid “we’re leaving at 4:30” I mean we’re leaving then, not packing equipment then.

I’m struggling with time management of my family members. Can you tell?

On the one hand, I think it is common courtesy to be on time, or hand something in on time.  I grew up in a country where punctuality was engraved in stone. Pretty much every schedule that ever existed that we were familiar with (transit, trains, school, work, appointments of any kind, store hours) were adhered to without exception. Everyone depended on their reliability. That’s what the Swiss were like, and I hear the Germans are similar.

I kinda liked that.

It’s a little difficult for me to adjust to the other way, the ‘laissez-faire’ attitude of the general population that surrounds me here in North America.

“No one else shows up at exactly 5”, they say to me as if this was an acceptable excuse.

“Doctor’s offices are always behind schedule, it doesn’t matter if we show up a bit late”, they say as a way of trying to calm my nerves when I fret about being late, again.

This is not helpful to me.

Sitting in University classes back in the day, I recall the same students, time and again, shuffling into lecture halls whenever they felt like it. It was distracting to the professor, and detracting to those of us suffering from the same hangovers as the late-comers. We still managed to get our asses out of bed and into class on time, why can’t they?

Don’t even start me on meetings at work. Or meeting speakers who back-track and repeat for the late arrivals. I used to think that those of us sitting there on time were less valuable than the dude who consistently showed up late because he always had someplace more pressing to be and had no qualms to interrupt the meeting. His time was more valuable than ours, was the message.

It left a bad taste in my mouth. It also slowed down production and efficiency, and reduced morale.

But punctuality is something you can learn. It’s not that difficult, and with today’s screens in every hand, there really is no excuse. You have access to digital clocks, reminder systems, and alarms in the palm of your hand for most of your waking moment, right?

I think this will be a multi-part series on my blog. Because I have lots more to say on this topic…

Anyone care to weigh in?


25 thoughts on “Interpreting punctuality: what is on time, and what is late? (Part I)

  1. Great post! I’m someone who struggles to be on time, because I’m always trying to do too many things at once. But I appreciate hearing how my sense of time affects others. Also, thnaks for chekcng out WordSisters!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I married a chronically late guy. His family is the same way. Me, I get anxiety if I arrive on time. I must be 10 minutes early, just in case.

    I read somewhere that people who are always late to events or planned appointments is a control thing. It’s kind of like saying “I don’t have to obey your rules.” I’m not sure if it’s that diabolical. I think my husband is just not as anal about being on time as me. He grew up in a setting where being on time was optional. It’s probably learned behavior.

    I think it’s rude but I’ve learned to be OK with being later than usual. So being on time or 5 minutes late.. I don’t like it, but it’s not as anxiety producing as it once was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s an element of anxiety involved too, I think. Some people are anxious about the event, procrastinate, then realize they’re going to be late and it’s panic mode which gets them to hurry up and get going finally. Your explanation makes sense too, I know people who are exactly like that.


  3. My mom has always been chronically late, and my dad is the exact opposite. It caused a LOT of conflict in my growing up years. Still does sometimes! Thankfully, my child hates to be late, so I find it’s ME that struggles, apparently inheriting my mother’s poor sense of time planning….
    But I’m on time or early 95% of the time, and, considering my environment I grew up in, I think that’s a pretty good average. 😁

    I hate being late though, and am never late for meetings, appointments, church, etc. It’s more of the day to day stuff that I don’t do so well. But most of that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

    I think it’s awesome that you attribute much of your need for punctuality to being Swiss. You’re like a finely made timepiece – not cliché at all! 🤣🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am also someone who believes punctuality is a sign of good manners and respect.

    I have had people tell me to relax, it’s no big deal (a carpool friend who picked my daughter up 20 minutes late for a one hour class!)

    I have adapted for a friend who is always 10-20 minutes late by telling her the wrong time so we show up simultaneously. She knows I do it, but it works.

    And someone I’m close to who understands the value of time broke up with a chronically late significant other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find myself struggling when depending on others who have time issues, so whenever I can I go on my own. I’ll just ‘meet’ them there…it’s not always perfect but at least I’m not the one that’s late…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. All I can say is I agree with you completely.

    Luckily I have a few people in my life who are the same and the rest I just don’t count on in this regard!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a huge problem at work. People tend to show up ten min late for each meeting. And in addition to that, the first thing they do when they enter the room is to walk over to the noisy coffee machine and make themselves a cup before sitting down. This pauses the meeting and is very annoying. That’s what you get having a combined lunch/lounge/meeting room probably, but still I feel that adult people should have the proper understanding and just sit down quietly when arriving.

    To prevent the problem we have implemented meeting rules. They actually work, but needs to be reminded to the employees now and then

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mea culpa! I am mostly on time or a few mins early but admit I sometimes try to fit in too much before I leave for an appointment/arrangement, which can then make me a few mins late. I hate that and do agree it’s rude to be late and I have got a lot better as my partner is always an early bird and starts circling and prowling before we are due to leave. That makes me (I) cross but (ii) hurry up!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I abide by the rule, “If you are ‘on time’ you are late”. If my job starts at 8am, I should be there, sitting at my desk, logged in and working by 8am, not parking in the lot and getting to my desk at 8:05. My husband is not time conscious and it has been an on-going sore point in our relationship. I give the kids plenty of heads-up about the schedule and when we need to leave the house. Oddly, the kids are usually pretty good about it. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m the same. Plugging in, waiting to load up, get coffee….do that prior to 8 so you can start work at 8. 😊

      My kids are very aware of my time keeping. And the consequences of being tardy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We all know someone who is ‘chronically late’. If they say they will meet you or drop something by the house around 4pm, and they don’t show until 4:15 or later, consistently….I view this as being rude. I think it shows a lack of respect for myself and my family’s time. It’s just rude to make people wait around for ‘when ever you decide to show up’. And as an employee, it’s actually ‘time-theft’ unless you working longer to ‘make-up’ for that time. Showing up when we say we will says a lot about who we are in character…of course this is just my opinion… 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  9. My Dad raised me with this phrase and I believe it is truth! “If you are 5 minutes early, you’re late.” My Dad was a Navy man so I’m guessing this was ingrained in him. I still live this way!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I am like you…arrive 10minutes early. I also tell people exactly what time we need to leave in order to get places on time.

    I think punctuality is a life lesson. Things run well and less stressfully if you’ve managed time properly.

    I don’t have much more to weigh in, because I have stressed punctuality and time management so much my family just does it.

    And I find I can’t be friends with people who are always late….

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I like punctuality and yes, the instructor is annoyed and noticed the students who always come in late. When I was in the United Arab Emirates, it was hard to become accustomed to their idea of time which was “Inshallah” This was used to explain the waiting we did for our first pay checks, for the landlords to be present, for contracts to be signed, etc. I took it as meaning, “we are in control and you are here for the ride, so sit back and buckle up.”

    Liked by 1 person

Share your thoughts!

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

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

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.