Never Be Late Again: 15 Tips to Guarantee You'll Always be on Time
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
As an optimist, I don’t think we intend or plan to be tardy. But if you don't plan to be on time, you're planning to be late. Showing up late for anything can be stressful, disrespectful, and can be costly -- one estimate is that tardiness costs U.S. businesses more than $3 billion annually in lost productivity. Despite this, between 15 and 20 percent of people admit that they’re constantly late.
If you don’t want to fall into this camp, then here are 15 ways to guarantee you’ll always be on time.
1. Remind yourself why you want to be more punctual.
When you're launching your own business, you need to determine the reason behind your actions. Doing so will keep you motivated and ensure that you stick with it. This may also help you identify potential roadblocks and solutions to overcome them.
The same is true of why you want to be more punctual. For example, is your tardiness adding stress to your life? Is it putting a strain on your relationships? Is it harming your reputation because you’re seen as someone who is unreliable or constantly missing deadlines?
Reflect on why you want to stop being late. Think about how this is going to make your life better, and after you’ve done this, make being on time a priority.
2. Know yourself.
Let’s say that you’re always late to work. Is it because you aren’t waking up early enough? Does your commute take longer than you think? Are you underestimating how long it takes for you to get around?
You can’t fix your tardiness problem if you don’t get to the root of the problem. You may notice that it could be a simple solution, like setting your alarm 15-minutes earlier in the morning.
Also, get to know your personal clock so that you can plan your day around that. For instance, let’s say you’re the type of person who needs an hour or two to get moving after waking up. Then it would be counterproductive to wake-up at 8 A.M. and expect to be at work by 9 A.M. Instead, you either set your alarm earlier or arrive at work later in the day.
3. Become a scheduling pro.
Perhaps the main reason why being on time is an issue is because you aren’t managing your time effectively. The best way to correct this is by becoming a master at scheduling.
Start by tracking your time. This includes everything from the length of your commute, the time spent responding to emails and how long it takes you to complete your work. You can do this manually or use a time-tracking app. Regardless of how you go about this, you need to know how you’re spending your time so you can be realistic with your plans.
Ideally, you should do this for a couple of weeks to give you a more accurate picture. After that, you can schedule everything into your calendar to prevent conflicts like being late. For example, if you found out that it takes you two hours to finish a specific task, and you start it at 9 A.M., then you wouldn’t schedule a meeting across town at 11 A.M. There’s just no way you would get there on time.
4. It’s always better to overestimate.
Speaking of scheduling, it’s usually for the best to overestimate. That’s because no matter how organized you are, you can’t predict the unexpected. This could be sitting in traffic because of an accident or not being able to get in the zone when working. Heck, sometimes we spend more time getting dressed and ready to leave the house than we thought. There have been several times when I underestimated how long it took for my clothes to dry, which led to me leaving later than planned.
The worst thing that could happen is that you arrive early, and you could use that time to catch up on some reading, emails or prepping for your next to-do-list item.
5. Take into account transition activities.
Most of us give ourselves just enough time to get from A to B or jump from one task to another. Overestimating is one way to handle unexpected events. However, I feel a lot of people don’t take into account transition activities.
For example, if you have a lunch meeting that starts at noon, did you block out the appropriate amount of time to get from your office to the restaurant? If not, you may have inadvertently scheduled something else onto your calendar that butts right up against the meeting leaving you not much time to get to the event on time.
As a rule going forward, place time buffers between your calendar entries. This way you have extra time in case of an unexpected event. And, most importantly, you’re avoiding any potential scheduling conflicts.
6. Plan the night before.
Instead of rushing around every morning, establish an evening routine where you prep for tomorrow tonight. Examples include laying out your clothes, packing your lunch, knowing where your keys and wallet are and reviewing your calendar. If you have a presentation, practice and have all documents and equipment packed, organized, and ready to go.
7. Set your watch later.
Here’s an easy enough hack that can trick your brain into thinking it’s later than it is. Just set your watches and clocks 5 or 10 minutes later than the actual time. Just make sure that they’re all synched so that you won’t get confused when you wristwatch and clocks on your phone, computer, and wall are displaying various times.
8. Use reminders and notifications.
These days, reminders and notifications are automatic. For example, if you bought tickets to a concert using your Gmail address then you’ll receive an email reminding you of the event. Whenever you add an entry to your calendar you’ll also receive reminders.
Here’s the thing: Most people don’t alter these reminders and notifications. In other words, if you have a meeting at 3 P.M. and you may receive a reminder five minutes prior, that’s all well and good. But, if you set the reminder to 30-minutes, that would ensure you leave the office with plenty of time to get to the meeting.
9. Under-schedule yourself.
Remember when you tracked your time? That information can prevent you from spreading yourself too thin. For instance, if you know that you have meetings all day, and you need time to travel and prep between each, then you’re not going to commit to a last-minute conference call or helping an employee out with a problem. Instead, you would schedule them for another date when you have the availability.
10. Rethink your semantics.
"Instead of thinking ‘We have to be at the recital at 5:00,’ think ‘The curtain goes up at 5:00,’” writes Ellen Hendriksen on HuffPost. “There's a big difference between being in your seat, program in hand, versus having technically arrived, but still cruising around looking for parking at the appointed hour.”
Hendriksen suggests changing the wording in your head. For example, "I need to be in the restaurant at 7:30," "The meeting begins at 2:00," or "I have an hour to finish this and drive there and park."
11. Stop trying to squeeze in “just one more thing.”
We’ve all been guilty of this. You look at the clock and realize that you have to leave in 10 minutes. As opposed to just sitting there, you decide to respond to an email or return a phone call. Next thing you know, you’ve spent 20 minutes cleaning out your inbox or chatting on the phone.
I know that you don’t want to waste any valuable time. But, you need to keep that urge under control. If not, you’ll end up being late. My solution around this would be to just get up and leave. If you’re super early, you can spend that time replying to emails or whatever soft tasks you need to cross off your list.
12. Schedule events during off-hours.
Even if you don’t commute to work, I’m sure that you at least have an idea on when peak travel times are. Usually, this is right before 9 A.M., noon, and a little after 5 P.M. Instead of joining in on the rat race, schedule events when things aren’t hectic.
Since you’re your own boss, this shouldn’t be an ordeal. Set your schedule where you come into work after 9 and leave around 6. If you wake up early, then leave your home before rush hour begins or work from home until it’s time to go. Plan an early lunch meetings when it will be less crowded on the roads and the restaurant itself.
13. Play the host.
Want to avoid travel time? Host more events. For example, instead of leaving your office and traveling across town, have the meeting in your conference room.
14. Be ruthless with your time.
When you have something scheduled on your calendar, then that’s the only thing that you should be focused on. That means not getting distracted with smartphone notifications or stopping whatever you’re doing to grab coffee with a friend. It may also involve saying “no” more often. For instance, if you’ve already committed to attending a social event then you may have to decline an invite for another even on the same day.
15. Prioritize your sleep.
What does sleeping have to do with tardiness? Well, oversleeping is one of the most common reasons why people run late. It’s impossible to get to work by 9 A.M. when you slept in until 8:30.
Make it a point to get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep each night. It sounds ridiculous, but the best way to do this is by waking up and going to bed at the same time. Avoid blue light at least an hour before hitting the hay and keep your bedroom cool and dark like a cave.