On Timeliness

Photo: health.com

Photo: health.com

Lately I have been running late for work…often. This has corresponded with living so near my new workplace. I recently changed jobs and no longer have a commute. I know it takes me less time to get to work, so I leave at the last minute.

Now cover your ears if you don’t like us folks, but I am a morning person all the way. That eliminates a whole category of excuses. I sleep well. I’m not too tired to get up in the morning. If my alarm clock malfunctioned, I would still wake up at the same time. I never hit the snooze button. So where do my mornings go wrong?

I get up more than 3 hours before I start work, and I complete a substantial part of my day before work even begins!

5:20 to 6:30 – Workout

From the time my feet hit the floor to the time I do my last cool-down stretch is 70 minutes – about 55 of real exercise and 15 of faffing around choosing a playlist and downloading an e-book J

6:30 to 7:15 – Get Half Ready

Next I have a shower, make coffee and have breakfast with Rom.

7:15 to 8:45 – Settle In

Rom leaves for work and I relax and do some blog reading. In my bathrobe. Ah, now you can see where my system falls apart. I get sucked into the Internet vortex! Since I have so much time available, I always think I can finish getting ready for work “later.”

Every 20 minutes or so I get up and do something to get ready for work. The first time I’ll get dressed, and then think, “OK, I’m pretty much ready now!” Twenty minutes later it will occur to me, “I should go get some snacks ready to bring with me.” So I’ll go wash some fruit and spoon out some yogurt and pour my coffee into a Thermos.

Today I set a target of leaving at 8:30, fifteen minutes early. It’s a good thing I did. Despite getting off my duff at 8:30, I had to complete the following before leaving the house:

  • Power down computer
  • Put jacket, scarf, hat and boots on
  • Find favourite gloves
  • Search through bag to make sure I had work keys – eventually found in pocket of coat I wore yesterday
  • Take some stuff out of my backpack to make it lighter
  • Check whereabouts of cats – making sure they aren’t closed up in a bedroom all day

By the time I set foot outside the door, it was 8:37. Luckily I had time to walk to work. Because it’s so close, any gains I might make from driving are cancelled out by the time it takes to scrape frost from the windows and de-fog them.

I’m hoping I’ve zapped this bad habit by doing all of my Get Ready tasks a little earlier and setting myself an earlier Leave Time. If I really need to get tough with myself, I’ll get completely ready for work by 7:30 with all of my day’s supplies by the door, and only then go back to my laptop. If I was especially strict, I could do an Internet ban in the mornings. But really, with 75 minutes of free time, I should be able to browse away for an hour. (Sometimes I do some budgeting or read a book, though!)

Do you know what has motivated me most to change? I’m “the new boss” at work, and I envisioned my staff answering the phone at 9:00 and telling my caller, “Dar? Oh, she usually straggles in by 9:15…” I would hate that! Must set a good example!

During my commuting years, I was rarely late for work because I allowed so much time for getting there. Occasionally there would be freakish traffic. If I attended a meeting at a downtown site, sometimes I wouldn’t allow enough time to find a nearby parking spot.

As a manager, the lateness explanations I hear most from employees are:

  • I overslept
  • My alarm didn’t go off
  • Traffic was bad
  • I couldn’t find a parking spot
  • The bus didn’t come
  • I missed the bus
  • I had to find another babysitter at the last minute
  • I spilled coffee down my shirt and had to go back home and change

And of course many believable mishaps such as a car breaking down, a toilet overflowing at home, or their mom making  a plea to be escorted to a doctor’s appointment.

The one that irritated me, though? The employees who turned up late “because of traffic” with a steaming hot Starbucks in hand!

In a book I once read, two more reasons for chronic lateness were cited:

  1. Women are often “pestered” for sex by their male partners in the morning and it makes them late for work; or
  2. Some people, consciously or not, like to make an entrance and turn heads when they arrive.

Are you punctual?


  1. I try hard to be punctual. However, when my son started at his preschool last January, I learned that they are SUPER flexible on start time. So I got lazy and got him there around 9-9:15 when the technical start time was 8:30. Part of it was due to traffic (almost 40 miles into town during rush hour). However, the main aspect was sleep. I’m very much a night person! Now that he is in kinder and has to be at school by 7:45, I pre-pack everything the night before. I can usually get us out the door in 20 minutes or less (assuming there are no meltdowns). I tend to be so regimented that I know exactly how long things take me, so I can get in that extra 5 minutes of sleep 😉

  2. What a great post! I have been cutting it fine of late too! Whilst I’m also a morning person, I’ve been very tired of late. The 5.20am wake ups for my walks have been deferred to a 6am get up for a 6.40am departure. Before the walks, I woke at 5.45am, so already you can see the problem!

    And as to your Starbucks ‘traffic’ people – that’s me in some ways. I’ll ONLY stop for coffee if I have about 10mins before 7am (my start time), however the current cafe workers are SO SLOW and I’ll often be minutes late to work. No one cares or says anything, and I put in extra hours (and I’ll answer calls from 6.40am), but I feel bad!

    In the morning, I get sucked into reading blog posts that came by email, but that’s all – no commenting, no searching out content. Adding my food and calories burned from exercise is also eating into the morning hours, as is emptying the dishwasher and the like.

    • I was never snarky with my “Starbucks staff” because I am a coffee addict, too, but I also appreciated it if they didn’t always peel out the door at 4:57 pm as well! I used to do food and exercise tracking, too, but I am trying to manage without it.

      • Ah the exacting one is less exacting, whilst I’m trying to be more so – though last night it was all a bit much (after reusing a recipe I’d inputted, but then adapting quantities, and then servings changed and I was in a tailspin!)

        Agreed – you can’t come late and leave early! With our job it’s hard to manage as we’re meant to go to sites, and this can be on the way home or to work…

      • I know what you mean about the recipes you input! I used to enter a recipe, let’s say Curry Veg, and then next time I’d make it differently, let’s say with more carrots, so I would copy the recipe and call it Curry Veg 2. Sometimes I would have 4 or 5 versions 🙂

      • And then the BF eats an unweighed portion, and trying to estimate it out gets too tricky!

      • I can relate to that! I was a kitchen dictator for a while: I would store the rest of a recipe and say, “This is two servings and it has to do us another meal!”

  3. After reading reason #1 for chronic lateness, I will never look at late coworkers the same way again 😉

  4. Fiona

    Lol! I am also laughing about the people who are chronically late at my work…perhaps they are #1s!

    I’m usually fanatical about getting out the door on time but only because (a) with a child, anything can happen and (b) traffic can go pear-shaped without warning. Would love to be able to walk to work (maybe a goal for 2015…)

  5. I’m generally punctual…except when it comes to getting to work, where I tend to be 5-15 minutes late every day. And the reason why is the same, I sit and surf too long. I also never leave on time and almost never take an hour lunch, usually 30 minutes, or none, so I end up working well over 40 hours a week. Since I work over anyway, I don’t feel bad about being late…but sometimes I wonder if it ever annoys my boss.

    • As a supervisor I have tended not to hassle staff about being a little late as long as they are flexible about breaks, lunches or leaving time, to make it up. But I did go easy on one employee who was significantly late every day, and of course it ended up causing hard feelings with all the staff who were punctual. I don’t want to get in the habit of being late, because it really isn’t fair to those who are more conscientious and put in a full day.

  6. That’s interesting that you are later now that you live closer to work. I had the same thing happen this past year – having only a five minute walk to uni means I’m often later than when I catch the bus!

  7. I’ve noticed a tendency to be later/cut it fine the closer someone lives to school/work!

    I have a similar issue to you, in that when I have ‘plenty of time’ to get to work, I faff- I wish I was disciplined enough to get totally ready for work before I did other things! I technically should have a couple of hours some days in which I could do something useful, such as housework, before work, but somehow I always fritter it away…

  8. As a former ‘boss’ I’ve heard every excuse under the sun….although never #1 thankfully! That would have been TMI lol!

    I’m annoying punctual – like too early for everything! I can totally understand how removing the car journey has given you a sense of having a lot more time in the mornings.

    Can I say how impressed I am that you can go from sleeping to exercising before coffee. The concept is alien to me!!

  9. Katie P

    I know exactly what you are feeling! As of now, I work from home, so I have shifted to starting work early (arguably too early since days!). I find it difficult to manage the balance when all of your materials are within reach (just five more minutes) and the pressure to remain accountable in the eyes of others. Yes, some days I do stay in my pajamas, but I experience such a high level of focus and nearly zero distractions that I do work for the entire time – no one to meet me downstairs at the coffee pot!

  10. I HATE to be late! It just bugs me. So I’m that annoying person who arrives early to everything (except parties where the expectation is that everyone starts getting there a half hour after the time on the invite). One of my old bosses was always late, so everyone at work took a kinda relaxed approach to being on time as well – and everything was good as long as you got there before him. If I’m ready extra early in the morning, I’ll get online and read blogs so I understand completely about the time suck. 🙂 But I set a timer because I can’t be late! haha

  11. I found the closer I live to work the more likely I am to be late. LOL

  12. I am very, very rarely late. It was inbred into us that we should be at work at least 20 minutes earlier than your start time. It’s dh’s biggest pet peeve with folk who never turn up for work on time…….so be thankful you don’t work with him!!!

    If you pop by my blog tomorrow I’ll be showing more photos, this time of the dining room and there is a really neat and cheap decorating tip to show you.

  13. EcoCatLady

    I’m generally pretty on time these days, though it wasn’t always so. Getting to work on time was always a challenge mostly because CatMan had an annoying habit of calling me as I was running out the door and wanting to chat. I’m SOOOOO glad my days of having to keep a daily schedule like that are over!

    I once read that people who are chronically late often have a fear of being early – and the awkward waiting that can sometimes happen when you are. I think that I used to fall into that category, but I finally decided that being awkwardly early was better than being awkwardly late!

    • Oh, you’ve really nailed it! Like the “first person at the party” syndrome. I am not hung up on that, but lots of people are. My time is not so valuable that I can’t be kept waiting. Maybe this will fade now that people can kill time on their smartphones and not look so tragically alone and unoccupied.

  14. I try to be punctual but it isn’t because I get up at 5.20 (is there such a time?) I am not sure I have seen 5.20 since I was a student coming home from a party before I went on the hospital wards at 6am!
    What time do you go to bed?

  15. Lisa

    I am the antithesis of you; a night person. Like Megyn, I will do anything to enable myself 5 minutes more of sleep, including using flex time at work, which allowed for a later start time and correspondingly later finish time. I am a very punctual person and hate being late, despite working for a government department where no one is ever on time it seems…that is until recently.

    I laughed out loud at your comment, “I used to do a lot better when I had MORE responsibilities…so maybe I am just wallowing in my freedom too much,” because since I have been on a leave of absence from work, I can’t seem to get anywhere on time, or if somehow I am on time, the period prior to the appointment was complete and utter chaos trying to get there. What has happened to me? I find it absolutely baffling. Is it because this is my own schedule, and thus I don’t take it as seriously? Am I wallowing in my freedom too? I still know how long it takes me to get ready and drive somewhere, but I find myself not sticking to my schedule and then being really pressed for time. I am loving being at home, but am so surprised that my lack of work structure has allowed me to do this – never would have guessed (especially when I have spent years grumbling at people who are not on time)!

    My other puzzling life question of recent, why does your blog spur me on to write such wordy comments? Hope you don’t mind – I do love your blog! 🙂

  16. anna

    Congrats on being the new boss! I’m a morning person, as well, and even though I get to work before most people, I still like to be punctual (I just feel it’s the ethical thing to do, and if I’m late, it’s on my conscience). That’s bizarre about people liking to make an entrance – even if it’s work?? lol

  17. Lane

    Night person here, married to a morning person. When I had to get the kids to school and me to the office, I had no problem getting everyone into the car at the appointed hour. But, as you’ve noticed, when it’s just me, I have more coffee, do just this one last little thing and soon I’m off schedule. A few years ago I resolved to get to sleep earlier so morning would be better; and this worked!

  18. Your comment about being late now that you live closer reminds me of a line from an old comedy show that has always stuck with me – and it was over 30 years ago. The main character was always late although he lived close, and someone who lived farther away was always earlier. The main character’s response: “but he has the time and distance available to speed up. If I try make up time, I am here already before I have had a chance to make up time.”

    I have two times I leave my home for work – slightly early in summer and slightly late in winter as I hate getting up in the dark. Unless I faff about reading blogs and doing a Sudoko, I seem to take the same time to get ready – about 1hr and 15 min. But like you, now I don’t have to make my sons’ lunch and help get them ready, I seem to be slower, think because I think I have more faffing time, but as you know faffing will always fill the time available and take more of the time not available. Kind of like a wibbly wobbly time vortex thing. You lose all sense of time when reading blogs, newspapers and puzzles.

    • Conversely, I am always trying to do “one more thing” online too, such as commenting on one more post, or replying to one more email! And somehow that seems just as important as brushing my teeth or getting my coat on!

  19. todadwithlove

    Love the post. I get up at 5:20am and don’t leave for work before quarter past eight. I often wonder what I do in those three hours — lots of faffing (gorgeous word) around, like you said. I am sometimes late for work, but more often early. I really admire your discipline with exercise, Dar. I hardly move my bones outside my gym routines. Nothing like a daily regimen.

    • I didn’t know the word “faff” until I met Rom because we don’t use it in Canada – it’s a UK term. We would just say wasting time, lazing around, or if we were being a little more rude, farting around. But not my graceful self, of course 🙂

  20. Issie

    I had to laugh at reason #1, because I’m the one who “pesters” my boyfriend for morning sex and always make him late 😀
    I used to wake up a good 3 hours early for work as well, but that inevitably made me late because I tried to do way too much with that time. I really envy your ability to ignore the snooze button!

  21. I hate clocks and deadlines and “time” in general as we know it in the industrialized culture! That said I’m inflicted with the guilt disease anytime I’m running late to work or need to call in sick, even though I’ve worked my ass off at every workplace I’ve been at, in my younger days going way above and beyond what was needed. So now I let myself sashay into work up to 20 minutes late and I don’t feel bad about it.

    I admire your ability to be so disciplined and stick to so many routines, and healthy ones at that. My life routines are pretty haphazard, which I’d like to improve but, well, just not there yet. On timeliness, I hate how quickly free time flies and I try to savor it as much as I can, especially as get-ready-for and leave-for-work time gets closer. Then I grumble and want to throw myself on the ground and toddler tantrum that “I don’t want to go to work!!!!” This is almost a daily occurrence; it’s a wonder I get to work every day! :/

    • One thing that keeps me punctual is wanting to show respect for others’ time by not keeping them waiting or guessing. I do like my job and try not to begrudge work time!

      • Oh I hear you, I don’t like keeping people waiting or guessing and I don’t like my time disrespected either. I look at work differently (as do my colleagues who all take advantage of our (somewhat) flexible and accepting environment), plus I have some leeway since I have to stay past my shift end at times, so it all works and balances out, though I think in the big picture I have still given far more than I’ve “taken” at work! That’s great that you like your job — my sister did a library technician program at school (she didn’t end up in the library field though).

      • It’s interesting – the library has definite shifts where we need to be there for public service hours, so that’s a given. However, for many years we were expected to read book reviews and select which books to order at home, with no time off given in exchange. I have usually worked in union environments in which everyone goes by the clock. Maybe not a bad thing because it was intended to prevent employers taking advantage of workers.

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