I’m late, I’m late for
A very important date.
No time to say hello, good-bye,
I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.
– The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland
You don’t have to be The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. You can be punctual. You don’t have to rush. You can arrive easily. It’s not impossible to stop being late.
The occasional tardiness is acceptable and expected. That urgent phone call just when you’re walking out the door. The kids simply refuse to behave that morning. The dog eats the neighbor’s bunny (sorry white rabbit).
On the other hand, being perpetually late is a sign of your poor planning or your disinterest. Neither reflects well on you. This can cost you the respect of your friends and colleagues. It can either consciously or unconsciously lead those who might be pivotal to your success think negatively of you. If you’re up for a promotion and it’s neck and neck, your perpetual lateness could mean the loss of the job.
There’s a saying in business: “Five minutes early is on time; on time is late; late is unacceptable.”
So, how can you plan to be punctual? I’ve got some tips to help you turn into the most reliable person in your social circle.
People who are perpetually late often blame their circumstances for their lateness. The easiest way to stop being late is to plan to do everything earlier that you think you must.
This means setting your alarm clock to go off earlier, hopping in the shower sooner, maybe skipping the morning news or newspaper and getting in your car and leaving earlier. If you have children, this means waking them earlier, getting them dressed earlier and dropping them off at school earlier.
This may sound harsh, but other people who are punctual have jobs, children, and demands. They still make their appointments and deadlines on time.
Plan to do less.
If planning earlier doesn’t make you more punctual, maybe there’s another problem. It’s hard to decline invitations or to say no to a request for help. We want to help everyone and meet everyone’s expectations. Those are noble goals, but they could be sabotaging you.
If you’re overcommitting, over helping, and over-promising, maybe you need to put less on your plate. Learn to say, “Thanks but no thanks.” You’re simply putting too much on yourself, which means you’re neither helping yourself nor giving those you’re helping your best self. Again, neither reflects well on you.
Learn your limitations, understand your expectations, and give in moderation. You’ll be surprised at how this can help you stop being late.
There are skills to getting more done in less time. If mornings are a challenge for you, pack your lunch, prepare your breakfast (as much as you can), lay out your clothing, and place everything you need to take with you for the day by your door. This way, you can wake up, get ready and many of your menial tasks are done.
What happens if you’re at work and your colleagues are distracting you? If you’re late for meetings and deadlines because others’ lack of preparation slows you down, take drastic steps. Don’t answer the phone, decline meeting requests, and avoid the morning chatter your first hour at work. Use this time to plan your day or prepare for your most important task.
Another way to get more done in less time is to do your most important or most challenging task first. This way you’re tackling this responsibility during the freshest part of your day. It’s easier to get more done when your synapses are firing on all cylinders and you have enough time to do what you must do.
Finally, focus. If you need to prepare for a meeting or it’s important for you to complete one responsibility, ignore those distractions that prevent you from focusing on the task at hand. Ignore emails, phone calls, and text messages that don’t serve your need. If you need to help the kids with their homework so they can get to bed on time, Facebooking and texting your friends are distractions.
Plan to plan.
Some people are more laid back, and that’s great. Honestly, I wish I were more laid back. However, that becomes a problem when it starts affecting other people or other people’s perception of you. If people start thinking you’re unprofessional or incapable, you have a problem.
The resolution to this is planning to plan. If you hit the snooze button over and over, plan to wake up the first time your alarm goes off. Mel Robbins’ 5-4-3-2-1 strategy is helpful for this.
Plan to make being punctual fun. If you don’t want to be late for a party, plan to show up early to spend one-on-one time with the host or to have a quiet drink alone before the party starts. If you have a meeting, plan to arrive early with coffee or cupcakes. The others will appreciate your thoughtfulness and timeliness. They’ll be happy you learned to stop being late.
Plan to care.
You may simply not care to be punctual. You may be the most important person in your life, but if you’re not the most important person where you’re going, you’re hurting yourself. The most important person and your peers will start to think less of you. Those who are less important than you will become cynical about you.
Resolve this by looking for the value of being on time for them. If you’re habitually late because you don’t like your boss, see how being on time and being a better employee for them could get you a lateral or upward job change. If you’re going to a party or event you don’t care about, if you plan to go at all, go early so you can leave early. Plan to care before you no longer have a job or friends to care about.
Plan to remember.
If you find it hard to remember what you must do, set up systems to help you. That’s easier to do today than ever. Once you get these systems in place, you will find it’s easier to stop being late.
I live and die by my to-do list on my Any List app. It’s an easy, portable place to list my daily to-dos and get the enjoyment of crossing them off. I also live by my Outlook calendar and meeting reminders. Outlook offers a phone app, and this gives me push notifications for upcoming meetings and deadlines. Depending on the meeting or deadline, I request notifications between 15 minutes to one week prior.
The iPhone will also send you push notifications at a certain time or when you’re at a certain location. If you need to pick up the milk on the way home, you can tell your iPhone to remind you at a certain time, when you leave work or when you’re near the grocery store.
There are numerous other apps to help you plan and remember — so you can stop being late. Find what works for you.
Plan to stop procrastinating.
Some people think they work better under pressure. Studies show those people are wrong.
Tim Pychyl, director of the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University and author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, says, “there is not one study that supports the claim that people perform better under the gun of a fast-approaching deadline.” If you’re one of the people who think you work better under pressure, stop lying to yourself.
Get real and create a schedule that allows you to tackle big projects a little at a time. Don’t put off projects until you’re almost late. It just stresses you out and it increases the chances you’ll miss your deadline. Whether that project is helping your child with a science project or getting something done at work, you’ll feel much better when you stop being late because you’ve taken your time.
Start to see the value, including less stress and more time to do better, by being on time. Put forth your best effort and get your best results.
Take it from someone who hates being late and who hates when others are consistently late. It’s not good for you or others if you’re never on time. It may be an antiquated belief, but even today for many being punctual is important to you and to them.