Always late? Here’s how to finally become a punctual person

You may think you simply can’t help being late — but there are so many things you can do to eradicate this bad habit. Here’s why you’re making yourself late, and how to fix the problem

We all know it’s pretty disrepectful to be late, and that it gives a bad impression, and yet we’re all guilty of letting time run away from us. If you find that you are spending your days racing the clock and frantically running around trying to beat traffic and meet deadlines, here are some tips on getting on top of the behaviour that’s making you late.

Accept the blame

Are you the kind of person who always ends up late, but it’s okay because you have an excuse? The traffic was terrible, you couldn’t find a parking spot, or someone caught you for a chat? If this sounds like you, then maybe it’s time you admit that you are the problem. All of these are genuine excuses, but other people manage to be punctual regardless. Set a time where you have to be out of the house, and also set your alarm earlier. Be strict on yourself, and recognise when you’re dawdling.

No more ‘last quick check’

Taking a minute to glance at your inbox or listen to your messages before you leave is never going to be as quick as you think. Firstly, we always completely underestimate how long any task is going to take, so firing off a few emails is never going to be a two-minute job. Secondly, you’re probably checking just in case ‘something comes up’. But if you have somewhere you have to be, then you’re only derailing yourself by tackling issues when you should be en route somewhere. If you leave on time, and arrive on time, you can respond to any messages with a simple ‘sorry for the delay, was in the car’. Otherwise, you end up being late and trying to sort out a situation. Do yourself a favour and check your messages when you actually have time to do something about it.

Smarter scheduling

Oh, the ambition and optimism of a massive, comprehensive to-do list. This is everything you have to do and if it is on this list it is getting done. But what ends up happening is time gets away from you, and you end up frazzled and late, and then your to-do list doesn’t seem so great. The only way to tackle this issue is to slash that to-do list. Prioritise just a few really essential things. Give yourself way too much time. You will have all the satisfaction of getting through your to-do list, without feeling rushed or panicked. You may end up being more productive, by doing less. Mind-blowing.

Make less decisions

Do you stand in front of your heaving wardrobe each morning, struggling to find an outfit? Do you hum and haw over menus, having no idea how to decide what to order, adding ten minutes to your morning coffee run or lunch break? Reduce the amount of decisions you have to make by creating some rules to live by. You could minimise your workwear wardrobe to practical staples, a uniform such as nice blouses and cigarette pants, or go the full hog and build a small capsule wardrobe that will save you lots of time on outfit planning. This will eliminate the habvit of changing your order all the time or wasting time trying to decide what ‘mood’ you are in. For example during the week, you could only drink Americanos so that your coffee order is always straight forward, rather than humming and hawing over cappuccinos and lattés, or you could always order a sandwich for lunch, reducing the amount of options you have to choose from.

Don’t live by deadlines

Seems counter-intuitive, but think about it. So many of us wait until a deadline is looming and the pressure is on to get a project finished or to head to where we need to be. Waiting until the last minute doesn’t allow any wiggle room for the bumps and hiccups life throws our way, so letting deadlines rule your schedule leaves you in a vulnerable position. You have to start sooner or leave earlier, it’s as simple as that. Figure out what’s making you procrastinate or delay and address it. Get used to that feeling of being early. That’s what it means to be on time.

Stop indulging yourself

Seems harsh, but if you’re the type of person to linger over a second cup of coffee, or hit the snooze button, you really are your own worst enemy. You’re after the instant gratification of indulging yourself in the moment, only creating stress for yourself later. Instead, reverse that process. See being early as the positive, where you can be at your ease on arrival. Also, if you’re not always running late, you won’t be eating into your personal time to try and play catch up.

Stop acting out

Do you find you’re capable of being on time when something is of value to you, but not when you feel obliged to? This could be your own unconscious way of rebelling and silently resisting the rules. Address the issue — are you always late for meetings because you don’t like a team leader? Or are you late for family functions because you feel bossed around? Deal with the issue as best you can, and remember, everyone has obligations.

Tackle your discomfort

Are you late because you’re dreading walking into a crowded event on your own? Or are you late for work meetings because you’re frantically going over your notes and feeling unsure? Or maybe you are late to meet up with a friend because you’re feeling insecure, and just want to avoid leaving the house altogether. Try and figure out what has gotten you down and address it, rather than continuing to struggle and standing in your own way.

Plus, here’s some simple tactics to help you become more punctual:

Set your clock earlier — even if you’re the one who changes the time, that initial glance at the clock will kickstart your brain into hurrying up before you’ve had the chance to remember the real time. It works.

Use the timer on your phone — see how long it actually takes you to get ready or to finish a task. Learn to plan your schedule better accordingly.

Create a drop zone — leave the essentials like your keys and purse in the same place so you never have to scramble to find them. We’ve all wasted a few mornings lifting up couch cushions and checking coat pockets in search of disappearing car keys!

Be a little pessimistic — assume traffic will be bad, that there will be no parking spaces, and that it will be impossible to find the place. Because for some reason most of us can assume that everything will be fine, leaving no room for error. For the most part, you will be pleasantly surprised, and on time.

Say ‘no’ more often — it is your own responsibility to protect your time. Often we say yes without thinking or just to please others, creating chaos for ourselves in the process.

Imagine that you are the one waiting — being late is pretty disrespectful of someone else’s time. Treat them how you’d like to be treated.

Prep the night before — it’s such a classic tip but so many of us still persist in leaving things until the morning, putting ourselves under undue pressure.

Banish distractions — leave scrolling Instagram for the evening time when you have nowhere else to be. Definitely don’t let apps like Twitter or Instagram dominate your mornings.

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