Forget Being On Time. Be Early!

The vast majority of your life, you’re going to need to be somewhere at a certain time. It may be for class or for a meeting. It may be for church or for dinner. It may be for a party or for an interview. Or it may be for an appointment or for an athletic event. 

Regardless of what the event or meeting or experience is, if you want to be wise … be early. Why? Because it’s virtually impossible to be right on time. To find two people’s watches (or cell phones) to be in sync is a rare experience (and clearly not in sync for the same second).

Believe it or not, I was once at a meeting where a fifth person was running late. The four of us who were already in the conference room checked our cell phones and noticed that all four of us had different times (and two of us were using the same cell phone carrier!). So forget being on time. Instead, be early!

Moreover, there’s another compelling reason why you should always shoot to be early and that’s to avoid being selfish. In face, let me share with you how I learned this lesson.

For years, while I was a senior pastor, I always ran a few minutes late. Why? Because there were always a thousand things on my plate and I was always trying to get “one last thing done.” However, when I moved from being the senior pastor of a church (where everyone was waiting to meet with me) to being a consultant where I didn’t want to disappoint a client or prospect, I started showing up early. And that’s when it dawned on me that for years, my lateness was driven by my selfishness. I wasn’t thinking about how I was wasting someone else’s time by being late, I was completely focused on me and my work—not very Christ-like if you ask me.

Now, none of that was intentional. I never sat down and thought, “I’m more important than they are. So what if they have to wait?” But that is what it I was communicating to all those people. And now that I occasionally have to wait for some clients and prospects now, I’m even more aware of that.

So, my encouragement to you is to always shoot for being early (as hard as that might be to do). And the key to being early, is to create margin. In other words, you have to stop pushing everything to the last moment, assuming that the world will cooperate and be in perfect alignment so you can get from point A to point B in the shortest, most optimal time. Just because you made it ONE TIME between point A and point B in ten minutes, doesn’t mean that’s how long it normally takes (which is probably closer to 15 minutes).

In other words, it’s better to assume that something will go wrong and prolong your trip, than it is to assume that everything will go perfectly and you’ll arrive at just the right time. In addition, by choosing to create margin and arriving early, you’ll not only communicate to the other person that they matter to you, you’ll also greatly reduce your stress (as well as the chance of getting a speeding ticket :-).

So forget being on time. Be early! It’s a great life lesson that’ll serve you well for the rest of your life.

P.S. There’s a famous football coach, Vince Lombardi, who used to require his players to arrive at least 10 mins. before they had to be someplace. That rule is often referred to as “Lombardi Time.” So, my recommendation is that we create a new rule called, “Johnson Time,” which means arriving five minutes early before any meeting or event.

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