Punctuality: Are you usually early, late, or right on time?

August 14, 2012, 8:25 AM GMT+0

Are you early to a party, do you arrive just on time, or are you the fashionably late type? Perhaps you’ve been kept waiting by a friend a few too many times, or maybe you’ve got a first date off to a bad start by turning up late.

A nationally representative YouGov public opinion poll conducted last December revealed that 58% of UK adults rated their punctuality as ‘above average’, while 32% said it was ‘about average’ and 7% said they were ‘below average’ at being on time.

We thought it might inspire some discussion here in YouGov Labs too, and invited you to enlighten us as to your time-keeping abilities.

We asked, generally speaking, would you say that you are usually early, late or on time?

  • The greatest proportion of those of you who took part told us you were usually early.
  • The second largest lot of participants said they were on time.
  • And the smallest proportion of you said you were usually late.

Next, we took a different slant on the subject to draw out the debate.

Evelyn Waugh, the author of Brideshead Revisited, argued that “Punctuality is the virtue of the bored”. Waugh was suggesting that bored people, or those who don’t have anything else to do with their time, tend to be on-time more than those who keep themselves well-occupied.

But what did panellists in Labs make of this? Not surprisingly, given the results of the first question, the largest proportion of participants said they either disagreed, or strongly disagreed with Evelyn Waugh’s suggestion that punctuality could be linked to boredom.

  • Those who disagreed said that being on time is polite, and shows respect for others, while being late displays the opposite of care and consideration.
  • You argued that showing up for things when you said you would is ‘a matter of principle’, and that punctuality is a quality of someone who knows how to manage their time, as opposed to someone who is bored.
  • Many said they found Mr Waugh’s comment ‘arrogant’.

A smaller group of those who took part said they either agreed, or strongly agreed that ‘punctuality is the virtue of the bored.’

  • They argued that people with lots of things going on typically have a harder time arriving early or on time, while for those who are not very busy it is easy to be punctual.
  • Some of you said you thought people who are not very busy use their punctuality to make themselves appear righteous.

VIEWPOINT: 'I DISAGREE with Evelyn Waugh's comment that punctuality is the virtue of the bored'

Punctuality is the virtue of the polite and considerate, who care about other people's time. Evelyn Waugh got it wrong” Brenda, Hertford

“I am never bored; I always have something else to do, and the list gets longer every year. A better saying is ‘Punctuality is the courtesy of kings’ and this is one of the rules I try to live byAnon

“Punctuality is not something where you simply say ‘Oh well, I have nothing else to do, I'll simply go now even if it is early’, it is a choice that you make when considering the possibility of a delay in your journey and the potential length of the delay to ensure that you are always early or at least on time. Punctuality is the virtue of the professionalAndrew, Erith

It sounds like the self-flattering excuse of a boor who is ill-mannered enough to keep other people waiting. It demonstrates an arrogant contempt for other people's timeMaggie L, London

Punctuality is the hallmark of a busy, well organised person. I'm never bored – can always read my Kindle if having to wait too long. Being late is discourteous and indicates one places little value on other people's time. When in business I never favoured people who were habitually late” Jimbo, Dorset

It is polite to turn up on time, or early, and it is disrespectful to turn up late because it gives the impression you don’t care or aren’t bothered about what you are attending if you show up lateAnon

VIEWPOINT: 'I AGREE with Evelyn Waugh's comment that punctuality is the virtue of the bored'

If one hasn't anything to do, one will leave on time or early for an appointment – simples!Justin, Cornwall

It's not so much that people who are bored are punctual, more that people who have lots of interesting things to do are unpunctualMike, Swansea

I'm always early because I have little to do. I would be late if I was busierJBM

People who are busy are easily distracted and try and stretch time, and are over-optimistic in their estimates of how long it will take to get there. Unfortunately, it is discourteous to be late and in a work setting unacceptable in most instances” Anon

“I think to a certain extent this is true. Some very un-busy people use punctuality to make themselves virtuous, by becoming completely inflexible and inconveniencing the busy people around them to make a pointJP, London

People who are always on time are irritating because it's unrealistic! I'm not always late, but I'm definitely known for being a bit later than early and it's usually because I get caught up doing other things. I'd say people who are always on time and are really obnoxious about it need to get a life” Anon

If you haven't shared with us already - tell us, how punctual are you? And what do you make of Mr Waugh's assertion? We want to hear your view!