Few Things are Truly Urgent
This is a serious admission for me. An anxious sense of urgency is woven into the fabric of my soul. I can’t help it. I am the most punctual man you know, guaranteed… like a Swiss train over here. Maybe that’s because I was born and raised on the East Coast, or because I’ve worked in the deadline-driven world of media, or it’s just in my DNA. I don’t know why, but I always have my eye on the clock. I’m great at it.
Yet I have come to learn this is not one of my endearing qualities. In fact, it makes a lot of people feel like crap. Turns out that no one is really impressed by the guy at the door tapping his foot, who managed to get ready 10 minutes early. That asshole (ahem, me) just makes most people feel slow or inferior. And in professional life, the “reward” for beating deadlines by a wide margin is usually just more work — probably the work of the folks that are taking their sweet time. (Bums.)
I’ve managed to temper this well-intentioned state of mind by asking myself if whatever I’m rushing towards is truly urgent, and the answer is almost always no. Few things in life are, in spite of so much evidence to the contrary. What is the true consequence of being 15 minutes behind schedule? Life or death? Terrific financial loss? Great personal insult? Usually not. But lots of us are always in a rush anyway. Something about driving a car makes this 10 times worse. If everyone who tailgates slow drivers was experiencing an actual instance of exigency, we’d be living in a world far too urgent to bear.
Still, though there is little sense in rushing, not everyone can handle chronic lateness, and it’s important to be sympathetic to that need. Also, there is a point when one is so late that they have graduated from just being a little rude or absent minded to being full-blown presumptuous. By making someone wait too long, you have presumed that your time has greater value than theirs, which is a real slap. I can’t really say how long that is… suppose it’s different for everyone. But there’s no missing it when it happens, and I can think of very few instances in life when being too early would be an equivalent insult.
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© 2012, Ian Mathias
As someone on the opposite end of the early/late spectrum, I have to disagree with your last sentence. Being very early can cause just as many problems for the other party as being very late.
Almost every week, I am forced to eat a cold lunch (that was once hot) because a customer came 30-40 minutes before our appointment was scheduled. It is the same sort of “my time is more valuable than yours” slight in my eyes. The chronically early person’s need to stay on schedule so he can hurry up and be early to his next commitment will very often force others to alter their daily schedules.
I find a good rule of thumb is to be within 15 minutes in either direction of the agreed upon time. Being too early can be just as problematic as being too late and the “lates” often find the “earlys” just as offensive as the other way around. It’s a matter of perspective 🙂
I’m a firefighter. Not the best advice for work but great advice for the real world.
Ha, yes, fires are urgent. Please disregard this chapter.
You are breeding my procrastination D:
20 years in the military….”15 minutes early is 15 minutes late”…Im putting that (now that Im retired) over with the “it is what it is” saying. HAHA
I’m a still a 16 years young girl, and have recently been trying to wrap my mind around what you so accurately worded in this blog. It is truly one of the best things I’ve read on the internet. I will certainly be returning here to remind myself of the 30 x 30. Thank you for the relatable and well-written posts. (Thank you also for the proper grammar and charismatic prose)
That’s very nice of you… thanks for reading!