latecomersI don’t like wasting time

People who are consistently late for appointments or meetings tends to share a particular trait. They don’t like waiting around – it’s a waste of time.

In their eyes arriving 5 or 10 minutes early for an appointment wastes valuable time that could be spent on other things.

So they will cram in more activities and leave setting off until the very last minute.  And, as a result, and almost inevitably, they’ll arrive late while you’ve been patiently waiting for them!

In their eyes they’re being efficient.

In the eyes of others they are being disrespectful.

‘On-timers’ always include a buffer zone

On our annual NLP Master Practitioner programme we ‘model’ or identify what’s behind how people do things.  It’s in-depth 2-day practical project in which a few people who are good at the selected skill are interviewed by teams of others to identify the precise elements that enables them to be so successful at their skill.

The month’s Modelling Project was ‘How to be on time’.  It provided some useful insights into a simple-but-valuable skill.

And one of these skills was an eye opener for some of us – including myself. I haven’t been a persistent latecomer but this is because I often have to rush furiously to be on time – with the result that it takes me some time to settle and centre myself when I arrive.

And the new skill I have gleaned has already made a difference.

What is it? People who are consistently on time always include a buffer zone in their time planning.

How to do it

Kerry likes to be on time. She considers it a mark of respect for the other person. In planning to arrive at a 2:15 PM meeting she will estimate the journey time and then some extra time as a ‘buffer zone’.

This is to allow for contingencies such as:

  • meeting somebody on the way who wants ‘a quick word’
  • being delayed at traffic lights
  • not being able to find a parking spot nearby
  • the train being delayed
  • having to answer an important call just before heading or (or arriving) and so on.

Her buffer zone allows Kerry to relax and arrive on-time.  And if she does arrive too early she will be just as efficient in utilising her time by, for example, making phone calls or relaxing and mentally preparing for the appointment.

Cutting it fine!

On the other hand the latecomers prefer working to deadlines – and usually very optimistic deadlines, at that.

For example, let’s say Matt has to meet someone across town. His journey involves getting from his office on the 5th floor to the car park, driving 25 minutes across town, parking his car, and then getting to where the meeting is being held.

In his optimistic planning, Matt will typically only estimate the 25 minutes travelling time. He will ignore the time required for the other parts of their journey: ‘that’ll only take a few moments – and I can always shave a few minutes off the trip when I get going’.

In a triumph of optimism over experience Matt won’t factor in possible delays like

  • meeting someone on his way to the car park who needs to tell him something
  • being delayed by a delivery van unloading in the street
  • having four sets of traffic lights ‘go against him’
  • being unable to find a parking place at the other end
  • being delayed on arrival because he has to be issued with an identity tag
  • and waiting for the lift to the 10th floor.

‘I don’t like wasting (my) time!’

Latecomers like Matt make a virtue out of not wanting to waste time.

Apart from the fact that their fine-tuning means they are always living on the edge – with barely time to breathe – they miss out on one key point: they may not like wasting their time – but they don’t seem to mind wasting other people’s time — which is what happens when they arrive late.

(Written in October 2011 and later edited)


  1. Karen Joergensen on 28th October 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Thanks 🙂 hadn’t had the thought, that there was a key trait surface on “late comers”! 🙂

    This isn’t news to me – through my NLP education I know what’s at stake here. And I know the pattern from the latecomers very well indeed. Used to have that strategy, until I was “enlightened” by NLP.
    I find that the interesting part is: What does it take to make people want the change from acting “latetimers” to actually want to be “on time”? Guess there’s being conscious; being aware of the fact that one can actually CHOOSE to change the pattern!; being reminded that their avoiding waste of time wastes other people’s time; difference between being on-timer and through-timer…

    Well – have a nice weekend – I know mine’s begun well with this entry –
    greetings from Karen 🙂

  2. Reg on 28th October 2011 at 5:50 PM

    Hi Karen: as a former latecomer (with occasional lapses) two things did it for me i.e helped me build in a buffer zone.

    One was the comfort which the buffer zone gives me – as I’m not living on the edge anymore.

    The other had more leverage: the disrespect I was showing to other people by my sloppy time-keeping.

    My weekend begins tomorrow with the first day of a new NLP Core Skills when I get to meet a new bunch of soon-to-be-friends.

    Hope yours is as enjoyable and thanks for the comment


  3. Denise Robertson on 28th October 2011 at 7:53 PM

    Hi Reg

    I really enjoyed this blog, as I like to be on time and find it really tries my patience waiting for people who think it ok to turn up late, or as I see it , when it suits them……………..


  4. Reg on 28th October 2011 at 7:59 PM

    Hi Denise

    And it could even be that one of those people who tried your patience – in the dim and distant past, i quickly add – might have been called Reg Connolly…



  5. Tudor Barker on 28th October 2011 at 10:52 PM

    Having worked for a manager that was never on time, never turned up on time for interviews, meeting, excursions, or anything else.

    It made me realise how disrespectful being late is. It means that the person being late, consider themselves too important to have to worry about keeping others waiting.

    People that are consistently late are also putting huge stresses on themselves and those around them.

    I must admit when I was in my early twenties I was guilty of being consistently late, then I grew up 🙂

  6. Russell on 29th October 2011 at 6:42 AM

    For me turning up late violates an important principle of NLP: respect. I don’t like wasting my time but I believe that wasting someone else’s time is a failure to show respect which I don’t want to do.

    I’m not perfect so I do sometimes (remorsefully) turn up late for an appointment. Perversely, I am more likely to miss a train than to be late for an appointment. Missing the train has no effect on the train or the other passengers. Making someone wait for me effects them not just me.

  7. Tim on 29th October 2011 at 11:49 AM

    Good morning
    Throughout my life I have unliked the idea of being late.
    For me It goes back to my parents always being late for taking me to football, scouts and other activities. I did also play a part of being a very impatient young boy. My parents use to go to meals out at friends and they would be told the meal starts at 7pm, when actaully it started at 730pm. the friends understood my parents couldnt help but be late, so in effect they were on time.

    I would rather be and on many occassions done so been half an hour early to an appointment. I dont think in all people that it is a case of being disrespectful towords that person or company. My wife finds it difficult not tobe late for appointments, but I know she is not disrespectful to people. my wife is a respected person and has alot of respect for people, in my wifes case it just one of those things in life, maybe.

    I think in some cases it is a coping mechanism/strategy to help deal with an appointment or interview, some people like to hit the ground running.

  8. Tim on 29th October 2011 at 12:18 PM

    …for example young, adults with extreme autism. They live their lives like they are on a train track; if they come up against an obstacle they have no way of working out how to go around.

    They would try to go back to the begining. In their head they need to get from A to B and be at B @ 1130am.

    So in their world being late can mean they have succsefully completed there journey in the way they wanted. If not these young adults I work with do become anxious, agitated and cope by having violent outbursts, and spend the rest of their day going back to begining at trying to complete their journey.

    My point is,that I know some managers,carers,doctors etc seem to deem the person who is late to be a time waster,disrespectful and so on. But it is to have understanding, awarness respect for the individauls model of the world who knows what goes on in a persons life they can be a huge benifit to the company etc no matter what difficulties or disabilities they have.

  9. Tim on 29th October 2011 at 12:46 PM

    An apology: reading back through my post I have ranted a bit.

    This week I had a young adult with the Aspergers syndrome form of autism who is highly functioning person. He also has an amazing memory for numbers. He can reel off the past 10 years of football goals scored, how many people at a match, who scored for Chesterfield United.

    He had an interview for a job in which he would analyse numbers and put them into a computer. He was late and was told he would not have the interview. They knew he had autism. We found out he ended up being one of the most quailified for that post. It was frustrating for that person.

    In the business world you do need people to be on time, I understand that, but sometimes having understanding and flexibility can better for that company etc.

  10. Reg on 30th October 2011 at 8:20 AM

    Hi Tim

    I can understand the fustration experienced by you and by the young man. He is more than competent for the job – in many respects. But not all. He hasn’t learned the skill of working as part of a team/system.

    For example, if the data he would have been inputting enables someone to do something their work they are dependent on his working to schedule – and others, down the line, will also need this. So being kind to him and giving him the job could cause chaos if he drifts in to do his work at almost any old time.

    Maybe somebody with NLP skills and lots of patience could find and teach him a strategy which would be enable him to be as precise at time-keeping as he is in keeping track of the Chesterfield United games.

    Both involve precision with numbers, so that’s not going to be a problem for him. He is motivated to be precise in one area but not in the other… So helping him develop motivation to be precise about time could be the answer.

  11. tim on 30th October 2011 at 11:29 AM

    To Reg,
    Thanks,I think that sometimes I can be blinkered in the job, I miss peripheral things in the world and sometimes the most obvious things.
    Mapping out the great skill with numbers and transfering that skill to other parts of his life makes perfect sense.
    Again I apologise for the rant as above.
    And to remind myself to read and observe,keep upto date and not always needed for me to comment.

  12. Corrine Thomas on 30th October 2011 at 5:56 PM

    A great blog and lovely reminder about time. It took me straight back in my memories to modelling time during the Master Practitioner programme and what that revealed to me. As someone who is organised and plans well, I always plan meticulously when I need to go somewhere, however until I did the Master Practitioner was often late for appointments and couldn’t understand why. The reason – I created plenty of buffer zones, but then because I knew I had these would then take risks with this time as I am motivated by tight deadlines. The turning point was thinking about others and how being late is not respectful to others. I still have to practice to ensure my buffers zones stay in place and when I do arrive someone early reward myself by taking a book to read or my ipod to listen to so that I am not wasting time by sitting around doing nothing !!

    Hope you are having a great weekend with the new core skills group as they begin their discovery of NLP

  13. Reg on 30th October 2011 at 6:37 PM

    Hi Corrine: we did the ‘how to be on time’ modelling project on a few different Master Practitioners and I wish I’d made notes or recorded the different results. But your (former) strategy of using buffer zones to be late is a new one for me! 🙂

    Your ‘cure’ was also the one which had most impact on my former being-late i.e. recognising the effect it had on other people.

    The second ‘cure’ for me was recognising the effect the cutting-it-fine strategy would have on my state. Dead-lining things lost their appeal.

  14. Jamie on 31st October 2011 at 11:54 AM

    In my view, the habitual “being late” behaviour can sometimes be about exerting control. “Important” people don’t wait around for others. Such things never settled well with me and often pushed my buttons to react petulantly into treating them with indeference. These days I tend to choose how to respond though.

    This did remind me of an anecdote from the recent Steve Jobs biography. Back in the 80s there was some large corporation, it may have been IBM, that was having a meeting with Jobs, who was notoriously difficult to deal with. The exec from IBM wanted to make a point of how important he was and to put Jobs in his place, so he arranged to have all of his people at the meeting but to turn up 10 mins late himself. The expectation was that they would need to wait for him and this would result in him being the controlling person of the meeting. When he entered the room, much to his dismay, he found that Jobs had not waited for him but had started without him, thereby totally sidelining his involvement in the meeting.

  15. Hiten on 3rd November 2011 at 8:55 PM

    Good post Reg. I would also like to add that being on time is polite! I find it quite annoying when people have made an effort to be on time for an event, but then there is one person who always arrives late. Mind you, it’s just the way the person’s brain works!