Early is On Time?

Posted August 27, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

My best friend will both roll her eyes and laugh at this post (I hope). You see, though we fit together in countless ways, there is one difference we have that has continuously caused issues in our friendship – I am perpetually early, and she is perpetually late. Over the years, we’ve learned to navigate this glitch in our relationship. She texts me when she’s getting in the shower so I can adequately predict the amount of time it will take her to get somewhere. And I bring reading material when we’re meeting for brunch so I don’t get upset or annoyed if I spend 10-15 minutes waiting.

I grew up in a household where we believed “Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable.” My parents were those parents who showed up an hour before every choir concert or school play to “avoid the traffic” in our very small town. I’d then be whispering intensely, “What are you doing here? No one else’s parents are here this early.” But somewhere along the line, it rubbed off on me and I have become perpetually, and annoyingly early. I’m not talking 5 minutes early. I’m talking really really early. I leave for meetings 30-40 minutes before I need to get there even when I know in my heart it’s a 10 minute walk. I always stand next to my ZipCar waiting for it to be open because I’m continuously 20 minutes early for the time I reserved it.

For much of my life, this earliness served me well. I would drive around a new neighborhood in Minneapolis as I waiting to head to a meeting, or stop and walk around at a nearby Target or boutique to kill time. But after moving to Chicago two years ago, however, I’m realizing that my “early is on time” attitude may be just as annoying and inconveniencing as my best friend’s “so sorry I’m late” one. Especially for people who work regularly at coffee shops, showing up early means potentially cutting into someone else’s meeting or interrupting a phone call. Just last week, I had a meeting in a non-commercial neighborhood and felt like a moron sitting for 20 minutes on a curb outside the person’s office because I didn’t have anything to do in the meantime.

So I’m adjusting my “early is on time” attitude. My new mantra (which of course I hope my BFF will also adapt) is “on time is on time.” I vow to attempt to accurately calculate travel times, wait times, and arrive on time at my destination. Think of all the time I’ll save by arriving on time. Add up all of those 20 minutes early wait times for my entire career and I have days and days of extra writing time, thinking time, or just sitting and watching the Kardashians time.

Tell me, which are you – are you like me and perpetually early? Or like my friend and perpetually late? And if you somehow manage to be on time, please enlighten us – how?

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."