Being early

As the person who was voted by his classmates “most likely to have a tardy slip” in eighth grade, I’ve had a lot to overcome when it comes to punctuality.

If someone were to ask me about why I was often late, my most common answer would have been some variation of “I ran out of time.” Does this sound familiar? Additionally, I thought that arriving earlier than I needed was a waste of time. Why sit in the parking lot and do nothing for 15 minutes? Also, there’s a rush that can accompany sprinting out of the door at the last second.

I believe that I was into that rush for a while, at least subconsciously. Waiting until the last possible second generated an adrenaline release that accompanied the sudden, pressing flurry of activity, and that was something I enjoyed. Once I recognized that’s what was going on, it was time to address it.

And, surprisingly, all I did was create a simple pro and con list regarding my persistent tardiness. On the “pro” side (if you can call it that) was the thrill of adrenaline and the other reasons I already mentioned. The con side was much longer, and much more convincing: chronic stress, disappointing others, disrespecting others’ time, shoddy work, etc. With that in mind, I decided to be chronically early.

Ultimately, I discovered that being early can actually save you time. Here’s how:

  1. You have time to relax and prepare before an event. Arriving 15 minutes early isn’t a waste of 15 minutes, it’s a gain. Look over your papers. Review what you’re going to do or say in your head. Or, just sip your coffee or tea and breathe.
  2. Good things pop up. I’ve been in situations where someone has said to me, “Oh, since you’re early do you want to help me with something?” I was able to provide a little unexpected something extra to someone else, which they won’t forget.
  3. Bust out some email replies. When I pick up my daughter from ballet classes, I like to be a good 15 minutes early. The waiting room is quiet and cozy with lots of comfortable furniture — perfect for replying to a few email messages. Again, that’s 15 minutes gained, not wasted.

Finally, and this is my favorite reason to be early: it gives me time to connect with others. “Why are we so early?” my kids often ask. The answer is so we can talk. Or laugh. Or discuss school or friends. Even 10 quiet minutes in the car or a waiting room can be so nice.

Some organization is required to join the perpetually early. Commit to working on projects well before they’re due. Leave the house earlier than you think you need to, and ensure that bags are packed and ready to go the night before they’re needed. You’ll be sipping tea and chilling out while everyone else is speeding along, stressed to the gills in an attempt to show up on time. Welcome to the early club.

9 Comments for “Being early”

  1. posted by infmom on

    I wish my mother were still alive to read this. She was always late and it was always someone else’s fault. “If you kids would just PITCH IN around here…” was the usual excuse.

    She was, honestly, late to her own funeral.

  2. posted by Egirlrocks on

    Excellent post, Dave. I’m ready to be chronically early! What a great way to look at it! I’ve already started incorporating the practice into my life but I’m not all the way there yet. You’re right about being calmer and more prepared for whatever I need to do. I’m able to keep up with my inbox but I rarely have down time to read a magazine article or even just look at the pictures. That’s how I’ll use some of my early time now.

  3. posted by Ruth Hansell on

    Nice article, Dave. Adding a caveat, I have to take into account what kind of gathering it is, how long it lasts, and the odds of being there early for those very benefits are better than the odds of being there late. I’m an introvert and there’s a definite limit to how long I can be around people before I need to leave, for everyone’s sake. If I arrive early and visit, or even if I am simply in the same room working on something and other people are chatting, it pretty much means I want to leave the second the meeting is over. If there’s significant networking going on AFTER the meeting, I would rather arrive right on time and have some energy to stick around and connect w/people at that time. We’re all different. And I TOTALLY agree about the rudeness of wasting other people’s time/energy. I hate it when I ‘m at any kind of function that has a definite start time and whoever is running the event says, “We’re going to wait a few minutes to give everyone a chance to get here.” Aaaaaargh – why isn’t my time as valuable as the tardy individual’s time?

  4. posted by Barron on

    Wondeful post! I am a big believer in “early”. It eliminates stress and I can catch up on things.

  5. posted by Pat on

    I have begun to work on this. It’s hard – I always want to do “one more thing” before I go out. But I hate the stressed feeling I get. I am trying to allow more time than I need and to bring my Kindle so I don’t mind the wait if I am early. Extra bonus: if it’s a large gathering parking is better!

  6. posted by jo silverman on

    I have a relative who spent 30 years in the army and has probably never been on time in his life. Amazing. Even when he got his first star!
    I on the on the hand am the exact opposite. When I am invited somewhere the invitation I get mentions an arrival time a half hour later than everyone else’s. Wonder why? And when I taught I was constantly awestruck by teachers who rushed in for the first class of the day with the students.
    But then we are humans and we have any number of wiring diagrams clicking away in our brains so we can be different from the next person.

  7. posted by Lynn on

    Please, please, please – do not be 45 minutes early to my dinner party or christmas dinner, or birthday celebration, please! And when you do arrive 45 minutes early, don’t expect to be waited on hand and foot. I do not understand how people can do that to other people – especially for a celebration. What a way to stress everyone out!

  8. posted by SkiptheBS on

    One or more good e-books stored on the phone makes earliness a pleasure. I, too, had to learn punctuality the hard way. My commute involved railroad tracks, miles-long trains, and a thoroughly unsympathetic stupidvisor. Leaving 75 minutes early for a 15 minute commute took the stress out of the day when the wait included iced tea, ripe peaches, and a paperback.

  9. posted by Jan MJ on

    Love this. As far as arriving early for parties, do so, just don’t get out of car or go in until other guests start to arrive. It’s very stressful for a host to do the necessary last minute food prep while someone is hanging over the counter asking if they can help ( they can’t :))

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