If you are someone who is constantly running late, then you know the struggle of being prompt (or more accurately, never being prompt) is real. And if you are always on time, then you know how annoying it is to deal with a friend/colleague/family member who is perpetually running behind schedule. But for better or worse, being timely is a really important quality in all areas of your life, because being on time reflects a conscientious attitude, good work ethic, organization, dedication and responsibility. In your personal life being on time shows your loved ones you care and you take your time with them seriously—you don’t take that quality time for granted and you can be trusted to be there for them.
When it comes t o your career, tardiness is not OK. According to a recent article on The Muse, “if you’re habitually late, you run the risk of undermining your professional reputation—no matter how smart, competent, or capable you might be.” But unfortunately for many of us who have been late to everything for as long as we can remember (guilty), a few minutes behind schedule is a part of our daily life. According to management consultant Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again, “most late people have been late all their life, and they are late for every type of activity—good or bad.” She continues to explain, “some experts subscribe to the theory that certain people are hardwired to be late and that part of the problem may be embedded deep in the lobes of the brain.”
Being late is not as simple as it seems
She also argues, “punctual people misunderstand. They think you’re doing it as a control thing, or that you’re selfish or inconsiderate. But, it really is a much more complex problem than it seems.” And because lateness is a complicated problem, it’s also a really hard habit to break. Think of it as a similar issue to over-eating—you wouldn’t tell someone who struggles with her weight to just eat less.
So where does that leave you if you are one of those late people? Do you just need to succumb to the fact that you will always be chronically late, no matter what you do? Or is recognizing your lateness actually the first step to making a change to your schedule, your timing and your life? Thankfully, it’s the latter, and there are some simple steps you can take to make improvements to your habits and your ability to be on time. Here are some tips and tricks to help you stop running late to everything.
Assess What Kind of Late You Are
Even if you are always late, there are different kinds of being late, and different reasons for being late. Do you rationalize why you are late? Do you over-commit yourself and over-book your time? Do you leave everything to the last minute? Do you struggle to keep track of your commitments? There are a lot of different reasons for being late, and in order to make a change in your life and nix those bad habits, you need to first figure out what they are. Here’s a good guide to get you started.
Budget Extra Time for Everything
Even if you think it only takes you 10 minutes to shower and get dressed (ha! it never does!) give yourself more time than you think you need. Start training your mind to allow extra time to do your tasks, so that you don’t feel as rushed and you don’t end up running behind schedule. After all, once you are late for one commitment it’s a slippery slope and it can be really hard to catch up. You can get others on board with this plan too—tell your husband to give you a departure time a few minutes earlier than you really need to be out the door, so even if you are a few minutes behind schedule, you still won’t be late.
Write Down Your Habits and How They Take You
In order to know what extra time looks like you need to assess how long your tasks take you, and a great place to start is to write down what you do in a typical day, and how much time you spend on each of those parts of your routine. Make a list, write it down, and review it to look for inconsistencies that could be making you fall behind. How long does it take to make your kids’ lunch?
How long to get dressed? What about your daily commute or your time at the grocery store? Write them down, and then see if you’re being honest about your time. DeLonzor explains a good first step is writing down your daily habits and then estimating how long you think it takes you to do each one–then spend a week or so writing down how long each thing actually takes. “Late people tend to engage in magical thinking,” she says, meaning they think a task only takes a few minutes, when in reality it takes a lot longer on average.
Do Not Do “Just One More Thing”
We all fall into the trap of doing one quick thing before moving on to the next task, but one thing never turns out to be as quick as we think. Answering an email turns into hours of correspondence and, suddenly, you’re already late, you’re stressed, and you can’t leave your job. Storing a clean item of clothing leads to organizing the entire drawer and losing track of time. Don’t do that task that can wait, and it’s likely to make you late.
Change your daily schedule to break bad habits
We all fall into the trap of doing one quick thing before we move on to the next task, but that one thing never ends up being as quick as we think. Answering one email turns into hours of email correspondence and suddenly you’re late, you’re stressed, and you’re not able to tear yourself away from your work. Putting away one more piece of laundry leads to organizing your entire drawer and losing track of time. Don’t do it—that one thing can wait, and chances are it will make you late.
Allow Yourself Down Time
If the reason you are always late is because you never have the time you need to relax, breath, and take care of smaller tasks, then perhaps you need more down time. By allowing yourself some time dedicated to you, and the things you need to address, then you’ll be able to relax, gather your thoughts and mentally and physically prepare to tackle your other responsibilities head on (and on time).
As Real Simple reports, Julie Morgenstern, organizational and productivity expert, author of Time Management from the Inside Out, suggests using down time “to catch up on simple tasks, like networking emails or that book you’ve been dying to read. By having items permanently on your “to-do” list, you’ll always feel like you’re accomplishing something.”