Are you notorious for your tardiness? Do your friends lie to you about what time to meet them, hoping to trick you into getting there on time? Are you used to walking into a theater where the movie has already started? Have you apologized for being late at work more than once this month?
If so, you may be punctuality-challenged, which is not only a pain to your friends and family, but it can be a career-threatening condition.
Some habitually late people think only uptight clock-watchers and control freaks care about punctuality, but while it might not be a big deal to be late to the movie, for a job interview or business meeting, it is a real problem.
People who are consistently late give the impression of being:
- disorganized and unable to manage their calendar and time;
- self-centered and disrespectful of other people's time;
- unreliable and not someone you can count on.
The simple truth is that punctuality is powerful, and it can be learned.
Here are seven secrets to always being on time.
1. Instead of thinking of being on time, think of being early with ease.
"On time" actually only lasts a moment; in truth, you'll be either early or late, and the sweet spot is being early enough that you are not stressed.
2. Be realistic about how long it takes to do things.
Wishful thinking is the enemy of punctuality. Don't pretend your shower takes five minutes when it takes twenty. Time your morning ritual so you know for sure. Clock your drive to the office, notice how long it takes to wait in line for that latte, and calculate long it really takes to prepare your monthly report.
3. Stop trying to squeeze so much in.
There is only so much you can get done in a day, and if you overbook yourself, you'll not only fail to get it all done, but you won't be having much fun. Instead, schedule plenty of time for what's important, and learn to say no to what's not.
4. Focus on milestones, and learn to count backwards and round up.
It's easier to focus on what time you need to leave instead of what time you need to get there. Count backwards, factoring in time for each step.
For instance, if you have a 2:00 meeting in the conference room, the milestone is to start walking over there at 1:55. If you need to be at the doctor's office at noon, count back to allow drive time, parking time, time to stop for gas, and time to grab a bagel, so you know that if you leave at 11:10, you are on schedule.
Always round up and give yourself a generous buffer for inevitable delays. Remember, your goal is to arrive early with ease.
5. Use technology to keep track of milestones.
Timers and alarms are invaluable helpers in staying on schedule. Set your milestones as alarms. I set an alarm to ring three minutes before each call on my calendar. Those three minutes let me finish what I'm doing, find the paperwork, files and numbers I need, and get settled for the call. Best of all, knowing that the alarm is set frees me from keeping an eye on the clock.
Try a countdown timer for upcoming deadlines, and don't forget about your smartphone's alarm function.
6. Be organized and keep things in one consistent place.
Choose one place where you always put your keys, purse or wallet so you don't waste valuable time hunting for them. Lay your clothes out the night before and put the books and papers you need in your briefcase.
Advance planning and knowing where things are avoids last-minute panics that make you late. Again, remember the goal is early with ease.
7. Always carry something to do with you.
Arriving early doesn't have to mean lost time. Always have a book or magazine, pen and paper for working on ideas, or papers to work on with you. Then, if you find you're the one waiting for someone who's late, your time will still be productive.
Enjoy the feeling of not rushing. Once you experience the ease of being early, you'll get hooked on it, and that's the real payoff.
It doesn't take much to put some ease into your day – just a few minutes here and there can do it – and you, and the people who have been waiting for you, will appreciate it.
More tips to keep your life running smoothly: