Would You Rather Be 10 Minutes Late or 10 Minutes Early?

Would you rather be ten minutes late, or ten minutes early?

I asked this question on my Facebook Page, and found the answers fascinating.

I would much prefer to be ten minutes early–and in fact, I usually am. My husband is the same way, which is a major contributor to the harmony of our relationship. What time to leave for the airport is a marriage question that’s more important than you might think.

How about you?

Sidenote: People who tend to be early often feel that people who are late are being passive-aggressive or disrespectful, but people who are late protest that this isn’t the case, at all. How do you weigh in on this question? (If you’re always late, here are 7 tips to help you arrive on time.)

  • peninith1

    I would absolutely always rather be early than late. Waiting is part of the ritual of experience for me, and being late is very disturbing to me. I once worked for a boss who never was on time. It even bothered me to be late with her along. It’s the only way I’m ‘type A’ but I’m like that in a big way. By myself, I am MOST unlikely to be late, and have no trouble at all waiting (well most of the time not). Interestingly, my ‘anxiety dreams’ for many years were about being late on the first school day of the year. I sure don’t want to miss anything!

  • Andrea Wilson

    All the clocks in my house are set 10 minutes fast. I’ve taught my kids from a young age that being early is the responsible thing to do and is a sign of respect. I try not to judge, but yes, it bothers me when someone is late for a meeting. To me it seems rude and egotistical and a signal from them that their time is more important.

  • Lorne Evje

    Being late on a regular basis is a stress-inducing experience for one or more people. This type of stress does not contribute to happiness or longevity. And now, in the interest of fairness, we invite the habitually late to contribute a list of the benefits of being late….

  • Margaret

    Absolutely early. Always. Being late is way too stressful.

  • littlewarrior

    Too many variables… 10 minutes late for a meeting or 10 minutes late for a dinner? This is ultimately a question of cultural-etiquette and awareness surrounding. Moving to a rural part of Northern Ireland last year we were shocked at how late people met up in the evenings (and how late from the agreed time they can be). As we’ve bedded ourselves in we have come to realise this lateness is partially out of politeness.

  • www.nowherelife.com

    From the comments, sounds like you have a majority of readers who are early birds, myself included! I was just saying to a friend the other day how if I’m not 10 minutes early, I feel like I’m late. I try to be kind when others are late – so many people who I know and love (and think of as respectful, caring people) just can’t seem to help being 10 minutes late…

    • carly

      Small children are designed to make people late. There are many appointments I don’t want to be early for – for example, haircuts and doctors’ appointments – because the waiting time is so difficult to occupy for small kids. So, I aim to be right on time… and then the inevitable minor mishap occurs and we’re late! Hounding small kids to hurry up doesn’t help either – we’re still late, just harried as well. I think ‘trying to be kind’ from habitual early birds is a gracious approach, and not just to parents of little ones – late arrivers probably aren’t disrespectful of the time of others, they’re just not skilled at time management (or anxious, or snowed-under…). No-one likes being late, or the consequences of being late. It’s not nice to be kept waiting, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your late date is being rude… they probably envy your early-bird tendencies!

  • wayside wanderer

    A party or large gathering…10 minutes late. A small important gathering….10 minutes early but maybe not go in until close to the exact time. I do NOT like being the first person to arrive unless it is a group of folks I know. Bottom line…whatever gets me the least amount of attention. 🙂

  • Running late has always been stressful for me so typically I’m early, especially for business appointments. It gives me time to gather my thoughts and feel comfortable. I don’t worry about it if someone else is late unless they make a habit of it, and that just seems rude and inconsiderate.

    Happiness is planning ahead and arriving a bit early!

  • psychopixi

    I always try to be early for everything, and if I’m unexpectedly delayed it stresses me out. My mother is the opposite and can sometimes turn up a couple of _hours_ late to our meet-ups. Oddly enough, we don’t have a great relationship…

  • grindsmygears

    In business I can understand when busy people are late – the difference is whether they acknowledge that lateness or simply assume it’s ok. Socially it is more frustrating because 9 out of 10 times the reason for lateness seems to be more about the attitude of the person, rather than being due to external factors. Frankly, it’s just plain rude and lacks consideration of others. My caviat is that I hate sitting in the airpport for long periods becuase my wife insists on leaving so early – time management!

  • Angela Blasius

    My New Year’s resolution was to always be on time and to not tolerate those who are late! I feel/felt I can’t complain about people who are late if occasionally I am late. However, being early is the trick to always being on time and that is what I have been focusing on this year. Leave even if you think you will be too early. Often you are a little too early, but it allows for those times when there is a traffic jam or some other event to keep you from actually being late.

  • Caroline

    Early for sure; being late makes me stressed. My mother is the same way, and so was my father (and theirs was a long, harmonious marriage). We would agree to leave at 2 o’clock, say, and all three be ready at 1:45.

  • Kelly G

    As the kid of a military father and one who competed in figure skating, a sport centered around specific times, I am definitely a 10 minutes early person. For most things, my motto tends to be that 15 minutes early is arriving early, 10 minutes early is one time, 5 minutes early is running late, and on time is stressful. There are two major reasons I like to arrive early. The first is that I am much less stressed knowing I have time built in my schedule in the case of traffic or other detours, and I like to utilize the time to mentally prepare for the activity. That being said, my mother/brother are the opposite and I frequently give them an arrival time 15 minutes earlier than I want them to arrive.

  • Natalie

    Early, always! My best friend as a teenager was always late and I hated it. It was stressful and I felt it was rude. She always had an excuse but I wondered if “something” always happened why couldn’t she allow for that? It felt like she just didn’t care that I always had to wait around for her.

  • Theresa – Ready Aim Organize

    In organizing workshops I teach that it’s always better to be early than late! When I’m running late I have high levels of anxiety. It’s much healthier for me to be early 🙂

  • frances ramberg

    I would rather be early than late, BUT it drives me crazy when people are early for appointments with me and expect me to be available when they arrive. I’m an admissions director, and when I make an appointment to give a tour at a specific time it’s because that’s the time I can do it. I’m often in the classroom, off campus at another appointment, or giving another tour, and when people arrive early and assume I’ll be available because they are it also signals disrespect for my time, just as it would if they were late. As long as they acknowledge they’re early and make it clear they’re fine waiting I don’t mind, but when they behave as if they can’t imagine why I can’t meet with them 20 minutes early it really colors my impression of them.

  • meerkat

    I really want to be early, but I do struggle with being late most of the time — and have really tried to analyze why that’s the case (because it is absolutely not because I think my time is more important). I have determined is that I have a greater fear of arriving somewhere unprepared than being late, and because of that I don’t leave early enough. I always think of something else I should probably take “just in case” (extra tissues, some snacks, a water bottle, camera, books for the kids, etc.), or something else I should do (even one more trip to the loo, one more minute of brushing my teeth, one more make-up touch up) — the list is endless and so it doesn’t really seem to matter how early I start or wake-up, I’m always rushing at the last minute and never leave when I truly need to.

  • Jenya08

    I shoot for being on time, but whether I err on the side of late or early depends completely on the event. Meeting friends for a drink or at their house for dinner? Going to a party? Better to be late. Most people don’t want early birds when they’re rushing around to get stuff ready for guests. If I’m going to a bar, I usually take public transit, and there’s only so well I can time it. In contrast, I hate leaving friends waiting at a restaurant table. That puts people in a terribly awkward position.

    For a doctor’s appointment, I try to be early. Those schedules are tight (sometimes only 10 minutes to a patient). But my hairdresser *always* runs late, so I won’t show up 10 minutes early for her. As for the airport, I don’t want to be the person running for the flight, but in my experience, it makes no difference whether you arrive with an hour and twenty or an hour and thirty minutes to spare.

    • Jamie

      you’re right. I am a chronic underestimator.

      • Jamie

        Also, I feel anxious when I’m early. The time draaaaags. Tick….tock….tick….tock. I hate that feeling. Also, for some reason I need pressure to get my butt moving. I’m super slow and then all of a sudden when there is a time crunch my mind starts really firing and I zippidy-do-dah my act together and get where I need to go. This means that I’m often on-the-dot on time or a minute or two late, which to me is still on time.

  • Guest

    Arriving early to someone’s house for dinner is just plain rude, and I’m amazed at how many people do it! Anything else, early is fine. Best yet: be on time.

    • peninith1

      Agree–I try to be early for everything else, but not for a party or dinner unless I’m coming over to help prepare. For social occasions at someone’s house, I do arrive at the early end of the party (and leave correspondingly early) but I do try to arrive 10 minutes after the ‘starting time.’ To me, that is ‘on time’ . . . and I am embarrassed if my early fetish gets me there too soon. I’ve been known to park a block away and wait a while before getting out of the car.

  • mb

    I tend to be early, although I either sit in the car or walk around to get to an appointment on time. I have a sibling who is ALWAYS late — and not just 15 minutes, but one hour, two hours, and once — five hours. There’s no doubt in my mind — that’s passive aggressive behavior.

  • MimiManderly

    I always try to be early for most things: appointments, movie times. dinner reservations. I have to actually put effort into being late, such as when going to someone’s house for a party, because I know that being early is rude. My husband is always a bit late. The problem is that he putters around and only starts to get ready when he thinks that he has just enough time to get ready. Of course, things always go awry to delay him — a missing button, a lost contact lens, traffic on the way. Conversely, I get ready with time to spare, and THEN will putter around if there is time. I have ended relationships with people who are chronically an hour late or no-shows. I think that it shows disrespect for the person who is waiting.

  • Airise Flight

    It’s preferable for me to be in time everywhere The best thing is you are late at the ceremony of your burial.

  • PS

    I try and be as punctual as possible. Which means I am either early or right on time. Living in California, nobody shows up for social events on the exact minute and that does not bother me. But being late to the airport or a meeting will make me crazy and totally stress me out. So I try and plan accordingly. I have a friend who I have traveled with who is the latest person ever! I remember one time she had to argue over a $15 hamburger charge on her hotel bill for such an extended time we missed our flight. I was not happy because I didn’t have a “premier” status with the airline, I got bumped to a very different much later flight to our next destination, and unfortunately that is what I stands out in my head about that trip! I don’t mind being early for a meeting, or airport. I always find things to do.
    I have had parties where people have just shown up early-I mean really early like an hour before. They didn’t call me first to explain they were going to be in the area and it was more convenient for them (otherwise I would have sent them on an errand for me) to just stop on by. I remember answering the door in my bathrobe while I was vacuuming and was very annoyed so after pointing out it was a bit earlier than I expected, I poured them a glass a wine, finished my vacuuming, I got ready, and then gave them some tasks to do. I think if you are too early, that can be a problem too! Always call and ask if you can pick something up or help set up.
    I have dated chronically late men, my father was terrible at being on time. And now I prefer dating a man who is punctual.
    As part of my business meetings, we start on time, wait only 5 minutes, and I end on time-with a closing of “I want to respect everyone’s time”. The culture in my company for many years was that lateness was tolerated. People would contact me after the meeting and thank me for that awareness. And meetings starting late ultimately became unacceptable over time.
    Recognize and thank people when they are on time. Thank people for making the time. I find it really helps on the job. However those friends and family who tend to be chronically late-they are a whole different project!

  • Madeline

    Just thinking about being 10 minutes late stresses me out!

  • dww

    I do not like to be late, but I hate being early almost as much. It feels like a waste of time. I hate when other people are early to see me, too, because I count on the time up to the appointment.

  • A

    I prefer on time to anything but do try not to be late for things. That said, I work with someone who considers my getting there at 7:25 a.m. (we start at 7:30 a.m.) late and makes a real issue out of it. If they wanted me there 15-20 minutes early, I think my schedule would reflect that. As it is, that 5 minutes is plenty of time for me to put my purse away and be ready. So early birds who can’t respect people who are actually on time… man, that just peeves me.

  • Rachel

    I’m always late, not because I want or choose to be but because I’m an under-estimator. To complicate matters, roadworks and train line closures have exacerbated traffic where I live but I keep forgetting to factor it in when I plan. In all fairness to myself, I am getting better …

  • Ian Tomlinson

    Early every time. I am one of those people who think lateness is a sign of passive aggression. It’s not hard to get to places on time!

  • adora

    Isn’t ignoring the feelings of others the definition of disrespectful? I’m always 10 minutes early, because I’d like to be kind.
    It allows me to be generous with time, show more humility. When I have a few minutes to spare, I can hold the elevator for a lady in wheelchair without being mad at her. I can chat with the front desk lady at my gym about her children. I hold the door for people. I don’t mind giving directions to tourists. When I’m late, I can’t be bother with these things and it makes me feel like a terrible person.

    • oliverandboots

      I find it so interesting that Americans who are chronically early feel that is the only way to be respectful of others. In other cultures, respect for others is demonstrated by understanding that everyone is doing exactly what they need to be doing at this moment in time, and when they are able to be with you they will be present and give you their full attention. Behaving as though a meeting with you is the most important thing happening in someone else’s life is considered rude and arrogant. Everyone waits for everyone else and things begin when they begin and this is how kindness and respect are demonstrated. (Also, just because a person is late doesn’t mean they can’t interact with patience and graciousness –holding open doors, giving directions etc. The belief that being late is bad makes people feel anxious and thus disconnect from their humanity in order to get to the designated meeting place as soon as possible. It doesn’t have to be this way. Americans just seem to set it up this way.)

      • Jenya08

        Which cultures do you mean? In several western European countries (Germany, Sweden, etc.), being even 5 minutes late is considered the height of rudeness. In contrast, it’s okay to cancel 15 minutes before you’re supposed to meet someone (generally considered rude in the U.S. unless there’s an emergency).

  • Kristen

    I’d much rather be 10 minutes early, but I find myself misjudging the amount of time it’ll take me to do something (get ready/travel/etc.) and so I tend to arrive either on time or a few minutes late.

  • Katharine

    I would rather be 20 minutes early than 2 minutes late! Whilst timing mistakes and unavoidable delays happen to every well meaning person, my ethos is to try and prepare for every predictable eventuality and leave time to allow for them.

    It’s an interesting question… and potentially says a lot about a person or the event they are attending. In my example — Too controlling? Too uptight? Or – on the positive side – really eager to get to work? And I’ve never thought of how much time I might ‘waste’ being early for things.

  • Dani

    I don’t know. I just see coming earlier as an unsuccesfully hidden sign of arrogance. Ok, if I have to be at work at 7:54, why not make the work start at 7:54? But since it starts at eight, why I have to show up earlier. So people, if you’re earlier, please, be humble about it.

  • Megan Gordon

    It depends. Early is great if you can get in and do what you came to do in short order. For things like doctor’s appointments (my son has a disability and we have a lot of them), I prefer to be on time rather than early. It seems the earlier we arrive, the longer after our appointment time we have to wait – which makes me crazy.
    For social events at someone’s home – absolutely late. I cannot stand when someone shows up at my house early, so I try to avoid it.
    If it’s something that’s time sensitive, like a movie, I prefer to be early. But not too early.
    I really hate waiting…

  • Marci

    I work with a senior citizen audience. If an event starts at 2 p.m. we have to say that “doors open at 1:30 p.m.,” otherwise people will start showing up at 1 or even 12:30. Even so, people complain that I’m late when I arrive on time. I show up at 1:15 to unlock the doors and they say, “Finally! We’ve been waiting for a half hour.” Irritating… but inevitable.

  • BKF

    Just 2 weeks ago, I found myself 40 minutes too early for my children’s piano recital! My daughter was playing first, so we couldn’t be late, and I was also bringing some food. But no one else showed up for 30 minutes! I kept telling my children,”It’s better to be early than late.”I did overestimate the time to get there, esply with an old grandparent and 2 young children, but i secretly wondered if I was slightly neurotic! This blog entry makes me feel better!

  • eling

    I am not entirely sure how the early/late question relates to happiness. While it’s clear that being chronically late can be stressful and harried, it seems a lot of the habitually early who have commented are not necessarily happier either – since they seem quite critical and negative about others who are not as punctual as they are! I did, however, like the person who said that leaving extra time allowed them to practice small acts of kindness such as holding the door for others etc. I can see how such a person would be happier.

  • lady brett

    neither. the social awkwardness around being early is too much for me, but i hate to be thought of as irresponsible by being late (though it has never occurred to me to think of it as rude – probably because i have spent my whole life around loving, giving, amazing people with no sense of time =). so, yep, i’m one of those who will park around the corner or window shop to kill time and be there spot-on.

    of course, all that “on time” stuff changes when you have kids. we were late for *everything* for six months while we adjusted our assumptions around time (how long it takes to get in the car, etc.). and still, life with kids is more unpredictable and i’m not about to feel bad about being late to something because a last-minute time-out was needed or last-minute injury needed tending – that stuff is more important.

  • ER

    I run early, in general (most days, I sit down at my desk at 7:23 to start work at 7:30), but I grew up in a VERY VERY early family. My dad often made us an hour early for something that we didn’t need to be there for (church, a movie that has been out for months, etc.), so I feel like I have already used up all of my waiting around time on that sort of thing. I am pretty good at being exactly on the dot on time when it matters. (But like others have mentioned, my hardresser is always late, so I don’t stress that one). My husband is also chronically early, especially to social events where it is very awkward to arrive before our hosts are ready. Since I typically keep the calendar, I usually tell him the event starts 30-60 minutes later than it does so even if we are the first to arrive, it’s not by as much!

    • gretchenrubin

      It’s interesting – the comments reveal something that’s surprising to me.
      There’s a lot of talk about people being late, and the issues around tardiness, but I’ve never seen any discussion about the problem of EARLINESS. From what people are saying here, that seems to be a real challenge as well – can create anxiety, conflict, wasted time, and annoyance with the people on the other end.

  • Sherry Wade

    I want to comment because while I would prefer to be 10 minutes early, I am (almost) inevitably 10 minutes late. Or 30 minutes late. Late on everything, such as my daughter’s bedtime. (This is just one example of many — seems a good one.) I sincerely want my daughter to be well-rested. But somewhere around 6, I make a mistaken decision that she needs to get to play more with her dolls, or we need to get outside for a few minutes, or we need to bake cookies for our neighbor whose dog died, or … something. And then it’s almost seven, and there’s no way I can rush this slow-moving girl to bathe, eat dinner, brush teeth, read a book, and say an extended goodnight in an hour and a half. Same with getting to my place of business: I decide that before I go, I need to answer emails, pay bills, do laundry, write a press release, fix a database error, and more. Shockingly, I can’t get it all done in time, and I am late. Sometimes I do this when people are waiting to meet me. My mind seems to go into some fog of moving from one task or errand to another and then … I’m late. It seems so silly. So very easy to fix. But I am almost 45. I’m not getting any earlier.

    • gretchenrubin

      Many people who are late do it because they want to squeeze in “one last thing”—it’s a kind of over-optimistic productivity. Try thinking about something that you’ll get done on the other end – once she’s in bed, you can read that story; once you’re in the doctor’s lobby, you’ll read that press release.

  • Noodle

    My friends would think something is seriously wrong if I am 10 minutes late, and not called to say I’m late, which is rare. I fill in the EARLY time with meditation in the car or read blogs/books. Most of my friends have little ones, but a couple of them have ALWAYS been late, and underneath it drives me insane, so if we are to having dinner at home at 6pm I will tell them to be there at 5.30pm. The time I have made for them is important to me , so why are you not respecting that? Agree Gretchen some people need to squeeze one more task in and have no concept of time.

  • What a good question! Sometimes 10 minutes late so I’M not the one waiting, and so I can squeeze in one more errand. But more often 10 minutes early so I’m not frantic in the car driving over (mad at everyone who’s not in as big a rush as I am), and I can steal 10 minutes to read or think while I’m waiting.

  • Shannon

    I may still be trying to hardcore it into my life, but I love my mom’s philosophy: If you’re not 10 minutes early – you’re late.