Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Five Sorry Rules of Lateness

From Michael Munger, Chair of Political Science at Duke University, something every business person can appreciate: The Five Sorry Rules of Lateness.

Rule 1. The busier the person, the less likely he or she is to be late.

Rule 2. The closer my office is to the room, the later I arrive at the meeting.

Rule 3. The first will be last.

Rule 4. If you've never missed a plane, you spend too much time in airports.

Rule 5. If you have never been early, it's no accident.

Late people are different. If you are always late, then that's bias, not error. How do you tell if this is you? It's not hard. Do you consistently walk into meetings breathing heavily, and say, "Oh, sorry I'm late. You wouldn't believe what happened this time. I had to [insert improbable events here]."

Of course, you were also late last time, for other improbable reasons. Since the reasons are different, you think there is no pattern. But there is. Oh, there is. Late-niks always time it so that if (a) there is no traffic, (b) they catch every light green, (c) they find a parking space right at the front door of the building, and (d) they left the meeting folder on top of their desk in plain view, then they would be just 10 seconds late.

But "something goes wrong:" traffic, red lights, no parking, folder under pile of papers. Now,these are all actually predictable parts of life, not hundred year floods. If you are always late, though for different reasons, then those reasons are no reasons at all.

So, rules 4 and 5 work together: If you have never been late, you are wasting your time. If you have never been early, you are wasting other peoples' time.

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