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How to cope with chronically late people

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY I'm an almost comically punctual person. It probably stems from a certain pessimism: I assume there will be traffic, that there will be long lines at the airport, that it will take me a while to find the conference room, etc.

Of course, some people seem to have a more optimistic view of the universe. They are always shocked that there is traffic (on a Friday afternoon in the rain -- who would have thought!). They are sure they can crank out those last three emails before the meeting that's scheduled to start in 30 seconds. Today it will not take any time to fire up the computer to get the phone number for the conference call that's starting right now.

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Or maybe it's not optimism. Maybe these people just feel their time is more valuable than other people's, and they feel important when they make other people wait for them. Whatever the cause, they are chronically late.

If you work closely with such a person, how can you minimize the delays for everyone else?

1. Always do the dialing. Never let this person call you -- because the call will not happen at the scheduled time. While there's no guarantee she won't be on another call that has (what are the odds?) run late, at least pro-active dialing means the odds of an on-time start are in your favor.

2. Be crafty on scheduling. If you really need her to be on time (say, she's giving a presentation), ask to meet her personally at 12:30 before a 1 p.m. meeting. She'll still be late, but you can use the time to prep, and at least she'll likely be on time for the bigger meeting.

3. Keep yourself comfortable. When meeting in person, get this person to come meet you before going somewhere else together. That way, at least you're in your office, able to get work done.

4. Give intermediate deadlines. She'll probably blow through them, but missing a deadline for one chunk of a project by two days is better than missing the deadline for the entire project. You can build those two days into your reserve time for the project.

How do you cope with chronically late people?

Photo courtesy flickr user blue2likeyou
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