Balancing act: 'Time freaks' weigh in on their obsession

Published: Monday, Oct. 15 2012 1:00 p.m. MDT

Are you obsessed with time?

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Beware, good readers! There are lots of time-obsessed people out there, either silently grinding their teeth at your lateness or waiting to nag you when you're running behind.

Or so it would seem, based on responses to one of my recent columns.

In that piece, I mentioned my own lifelong focus on time and how much I hate being late. I also talked about a recent survey by Timex, which discussed how Americans use their time and how they feel about such things as hushing someone who is talking in a movie theater or waiting for people to go when a stoplight turns green.

That rumination struck a chord with some readers, and since I promised to share their responses, let's take a look at what they had to say.

A reader named James sent me an email to say he enjoyed the column on time.

"When my son was in high school marching band the director hung a sign for all to see which read: TO BE EARLY IS TO BE ON TIME. TO BE ON TIME IS TO BE LATE. TO BE LATE IS INEXCUSABLE," James wrote. "I committed this to memory and use it now and then when it is important to be on time anywhere."

That is a great quote, James, and I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. I think I'll share it with my children and see if I can get them to memorize it, too.

A reader named Phil, posting on my Facebook page, wrote that he always tries to be on time or a bit early.

"I feel if people are consistently late, they don't value my time," Phil wrote.

I feel the same way, Phil. I've found it especially irritating in past jobs when someone would call a meeting and then show up 15 minutes late. Usually I spent that "wasted" time chatting with coworkers, which I enjoyed, but it still irked me. If it's your meeting, shouldn't you be on time for it? Makes sense to me.

Another reader, Mike, wrote in an email that he could relate to my situation of being a time-obsessed person whose wife is decidedly less concerned about being late to events.

"However," he wrote, "I think you left (out) one important benefit of being on time, or even a little early, and that is it’s so enjoyable to have a minute or two to just relax and gather your thoughts before any appointment of any kind."

Again, Mike, you're absolutely correct. Back when I was a newspaper reporter, I always tried to be about five minutes early for interview appointments. I liked to have that time to look around the person's workplace and get a feel for his or her environment. Sometimes I would see a poster or award that would give me an idea for a question that I otherwise would have missed. But even when that didn't occur, I was happy to have a few minutes to pause and ponder before the interview began. Thanks for sending in this reminder.

A reader who signed her email "Time Freak" is even more obsessed than I am.

"I too am a freak about being on time (and have almost always been)," she wrote. "It started when my dad mentioned that old Mormon tune — 'Never Be Late to Sunday School' I think was the name of it. He gave me a lesson on how it was always OK to be early wherever you were going, but it was NEVER OK to be late. I was just a young gal at the time and revered (and still do) my father, so that lesson was ingrained into my very soul.

"It has all but driven me, and those I know and love, a little nutso. It is still what I believe to this day, at the ripe old age of 56 years old. I really don't have the TIME to be emailing you, ... (but) your article did make me smile and let me know I wasn't the only Time Freak in the Utah Universe."

No, Time Freak, you're definitely not alone, and my wife would say you're not the only one to drive others "a little nutso" with your obsession.

However, I am a good example of someone who has been able to temper (if only a little) his time focus in the interests of decreasing stress and maintaining good relationships. And if I can do it, there's hope for everyone.

If any other readers have thoughts on being late or on the specifics of the Timex survey, I'd like to hear them. After all, I can easily revisit this issue again someday. There's plenty of time.

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.

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