The importance of being punctual cannot be overstated.
Being on time matters; it matters a lot. However, a large number of people have a problem being punctual. In fact, surveys show that 15 to 20% of the US population is consistently late.
There are many negatives that go along with having a habit of being late. Here are a few them:
- Being late signals to others that you have self-control problems. In addition, people who are not punctual project incompetence.
- Being late is rude to those whom you keep waiting. It tells others that you don’t value their time (which is the same thing as not valuing them).
- Being late will probably make you feel flustered and insecure, and this will be reflected in the way in which you conduct yourself during any meeting or appointment that you’re late to.
- Being chronically late can make you lose clients, it can make you lose your job, and it can strain your relationships with the people who are most important to you.
In addition, there are several different reasons why a person might have a punctuality problem. Some of these include the following:
- Some people like the adrenaline rush that comes from cutting it close. They can’t motivate themselves to take action unless there’s a mini-crisis looming on the horizon.
- Disorganization is one of the main reasons why people are chronically late. It’s hard to be on time when you can’t find any clean clothes to wear, you misfiled the documents that you need for your meeting, or your car keys seem to have grown legs and walked off.
- People who are easily distracted have a tendency to be late. After all, just when they’re about to walk out the door something shiny catches their eye and distracts them long enough to make them late.
- Those who lack conscientiousness are chronically late. Conscientiousness includes regard for others and making deliberate choices.
Regardless of the reason why you have a tendency to be late, there are things you can do to adopt the habit of being on time. Below you’ll find 12 tips for being punctual.
1. Make Being Prompt a Priority. The first step in becoming punctual is accepting that you have a punctuality problem. Then, realize that it’s not a cute or quirky character trait. Instead, it’s a habit that’s having a negative impact on your career, on your business, and/or on your relationships.
Make a commitment to drop the tardiness habit and become punctual.
2. Know Why You Want to Be Punctual. Whenever you want to create a new habit, you need to be very clear on the reasons why you want to build that habit. The more reasons you have for wanting to adopt a new habit, and the stronger those reasons are, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make the new habit stick.
Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and ask yourself what you’ll gain by overcoming your tardiness habit and adopting a habit of punctuality, instead. You can write down things like the following:
- Being on time will help you to cut down on stress (after all, few things are as stressful as always running late).
- Being on time will reduce friction with your co-workers; nobody likes to be kept waiting.
- Being on time will let your boss know that you can be counted on, which could lead to a promotion.
Be very clear on the benefits that you’ll gain by being punctual, and then keep reminding yourself of those benefits in order to motivate yourself to become someone who’s prompt.
3. Track How Long Tasks Take. A lot of people who are constantly late have trouble determining how long it takes them to perform different tasks; even those tasks that they perform on a regular basis. For example, they might think that it takes them 25 minutes to get ready in the mornings, when the reality is that it takes them a lot longer than that.
If you fall into this group of people, do the following:
- Make a list of all the tasks that you have to get done in the morning in order to get ready to leave for school or work (or wherever it is that you go in the mornings).
- Then, spend a week tracking how long it takes you to complete each of these tasks. For example, how long does it take you to wash your face and brush your teeth? How long does it take you to take a shower? How long does it take you to get dressed? How long does it take you to fix your hair?
Once you’ve tracked how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, you may realize that it takes you 45 minutes to be ready to walk out the door, not the 25 minutes that you previously thought. If this is the case, accept that you need to start getting out of bed 20 minutes earlier in order to make it to your morning destination on time.
4. Use a Timer. Once you know how long it actually takes you to complete different tasks, use a timer to make sure that you adhere to those times. For example, if you know that it takes you three minutes to take a shower, set a timer for three minutes right before you step into the shower. Then, when you hear the timer ring, turn the water off and step out of the shower right away.
5. Be Ruthless With Your To Do List. One reason why you may have a tendency to be late is because you simply have too much to do. If your schedule is unrealistic, how can you possibly be on time for anything? It’s better to say “no” to something you don’t have time for than it is to say “yes” and then be an hour late.
Take out your to do list and ruthlessly cross out anything that’s not a priority. Make sure that you only commit to do the number of things which you can realistically get done, and which you can realistically be on time for. Punctual people accept that they can’t do it all.
6. Be Prepared to Be On Time. Preparation is one of the keys to punctuality. As an illustration, if you’re constantly late leaving your house in the morning, set up the night before. The night before, do the following:
- Choose the clothes that you’re going to wear and lay them out.
- Pack your briefcase and leave it by the door.
- Make sure that your house keys and your car keys are by the door.
- Make your breakfast —one idea is to cut up some fruits, put them in a container, and store the container in the fridge.
As a second example, if you’re constantly late to meetings because you can’t find what you need, start preparing for meetings long beforehand. At least an hour before the meeting, gather all of the materials that you’ll need and place them on a corner of your desk or on a chair.
Always be prepared to be on time.
7. Give Yourself a Time Cushion. Even if you know how long it takes you to perform different tasks—such as driving to work or driving to a meeting across town—give yourself some extra time in case of unexpected events. It’s a given that things are not going to run smoothly 100% of the time.
Here are some of the myriad of things that could go wrong as you try to get to your meeting across town:
- Just as you’re leaving your office you spill coffee on your shirt, so now you have to change into the spare shirt you keep in the closet.
- There’s construction along the route that you usually take, so now you have to take a different, longer route.
- It starts to rain, which slows down traffic.
One of the habits of people who are punctual is that they don’t just give themselves the amount of time that they need to get to where they’re going on time. Instead, they also give themselves a time cushion in case something goes wrong.
8. Be Prepared to Wait. People usually don’t like to be early because they feel that the time that they spend waiting for others is wasted time. That is, they prefer to be late rather than having some downtime. The key to overcoming this hurdle is to be prepared to have to wait. Waiting time doesn’t have to be wasted time.
Do the following:
- Keep a manila folder filled with industry related articles and take it with you so that you can catch up on your reading while you wait.
- Plan to answer emails on your iPhone.
- Use the downtime to close your eyes for a while and meditate.
- See the waiting time as “extra time” and use it to work on a personal project, such as working on your novel or on your business plan for the small business you want to start on the side.
The best way to avoid being late is to plan to be early. In addition, you can stop dreading being early by having a plan for how you’re going to use the waiting time.
9. Change Your Thoughts About Being Early. A lot of people think that those who are important keep others waiting. Therefore, being early is a sign that they’re not that important. And no one wants to feel unimportant.
However, being early is really a sign of being organized, having respect for others, and having good time management skills. And these are all character traits of important people. Keep telling yourself, “Important people are punctual”.
10. Always Leave on Time. The moment which ultimately determines whether you arrive where you’re going late or on time is the moment in which you walk out your door. Once you’ve reversed engineered the time at which you need to leave in order to arrive at your intended destination on time, force yourself to leave at that time.
Think of the following scenario: you’ve calculated that you need to leave by ten a.m. in order to get to your meeting with the board of directors ten minutes early. Therefore, at ten a.m. on the dot get up and go. Look at the following:
- If an email comes in at 9:59 a.m., ignore it.
- If a colleague walks into your office two minutes before you have to leave, tell them you can give them two minutes. When the two minutes are up, excuse yourself and leave.
- If it’s 9:58 a.m. and you feel like trying to squeeze in one more task before you leave, have the discipline to stop yourself, get your things, and walk out.
- If you get up to leave and you notice that your diploma–which is hanging on the wall– is dusty, make a mental note to clean it when you get back. Under no circumstances should you start looking for a dusting cloth to clean it before you leave.
If you leave for your appointments on time–and you give yourself a time cushion in case something goes wrong–, you’re practically guaranteed to be on time.
11. Set Up Reminders. Set up a reminder for meetings and appointments an hour before you have to leave. Also, set up another reminder for fifteen minutes before you have to go. That way, you can time yourself so that you’re ready to leave on time.
12. Practice the Day Before. For important events, such as a job interview or if you have to give a presentation, practice how to get to where you need to be the day before. That way, you won’t lose time on the day of the important event trying to find the right address.
Make a good first impression when it comes to important events by practicing the day before so that you can be on time.
When you’re on time you’re prepared to do your best. Being punctual signals to others, as well as to yourself, that you can be depended on. Use the 12 tips above to become more punctual.
Live your best life by adopting the habit of always being on time.
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Think about the last meeting you attended or the last appointment you had. Did you arrive right on time, or even early? Or were you--just a little bit--late?
Go ahead, admit it. I'll confess that I'm no paragon of punctuality myself. And I have lots of company. Recent research by Blue Jeans Network shows an astonishing 81 percent of meetings fail to start on time. But just because tardiness is rapidly becoming the norm doesn't make it OK. For all of us who've let sloppiness about time turn into a daily or weekly habit, it's time to stop.
1. It's impolite.
I come from New York City, and although it's a wonderful town in many ways, it's arguably the rudeness capital of the world. So I wasn't surprised to learn that people on the East Coast are the worst offenders when it comes to showing up late for meetings.
Being late always communicates the same deeply impolite nonverbal statement: "My time is more valuable than your time." Even if that's true because you're the boss, it will demoralize employees and make business partners reconsider whether they want to work with you. It's a terrible message to send under any circumstances.
2. You won't be at your best.
There are very few people in this world with enough self-confidence, or self-importance, that they truly don't care what others think of them. Unless you're one of those people--and I'm certainly not--being late is bound to rattle you at least a little as you head into your meeting or appointment. Are people resentful? Did you miss anything important? Should you have skipped stopping for that last cup of coffee or errand?
Having these worries bouncing around in your head will make it harder for you to focus on the matter at hand, whatever it is. You'll be distracted. And you probably really will miss something important.
3. You'll waste other people's time.
If you're the boss, this may not seem like a big deal, but think about it for a moment. The people you supervise depend on you for their jobs, but you depend on them for the successful performance of your department or company. If you're an entrepreneur, you may be paying them from your own limited resources. Why would you want to undercut their efficiency, not to mention their morale, by leaving them to sit around and wait for you to show up?
4. You'll worsen your company's culture.
You want a culture in which people are accountable to customers, to their peers, to themselves, and to you. But chronic lateness sets a tone about accountability, and it's not the tone you want. Being on time may seem trivial in the scheme of things, but it's a good place for accountability to start.
5. Tardiness becomes a vicious cycle.
If your employees know every meeting will dependably start at least five minutes late, do you think they'll bother showing up on time? Would you, if you were in their shoes? When people show up late for a meeting and find it hasn't started yet, that provides confirmation that the time they arrived was actually the right time to be there, and they'll be at least that late next time around. Meantime, those suckers who arrived when they were supposed to and had to sit around playing Candy Crush won't make that mistake again--they'll show up at least a few minutes late next time as well. Eventually, you'll have created a workplace where no meeting ever starts when it's supposed to, and people show up to meetings later and later.
The only way to avoid this is to start meetings on time no matter what. I know--because I used to routinely show up a few minutes late to board meetings at the American Society of Journalists and Authors. That was just fine, up until about a year ago when we started working with an association management firm that told us we should start and end every meeting on time whether key people were all there or not. We took that advice. And we're all a lot more punctual now.
6. Modern technology means there's no need to be late.
You can set your calendar or your watch--or both--to remind you when it's time to leave for a meeting. Map software, including your car's GPS, can tell you exactly how long it will take to get where you're going. These items, not to mention Waze, can also tell you how bad traffic is along your intended route and suggest alternatives. So while there may always be unforeseen occurrences, such as an accident just ahead of you, most days you have all the information you need to arrive anywhere on time.
7. Mobile technology means you won't waste your time if you're early.
Most of us can do all or most of our work using some combination of smartphone, laptop, and tablet, pretty much anywhere there's a cell-phone signal or available Wi-Fi. So there's no longer any need to stay in your office finishing up one last thing before you head to a meeting. Throw the laptop or tablet in your briefcase and the smartphone in your pocket, and leave early. You can sit and work wherever you are while waiting for the meeting to start.
8. A commitment to being on time forces you to schedule appropriately.
Overscheduling is behind much of my chronic tardiness, and I'm sure I'm not the only one with the bad habit of thinking I can always squeeze one more thing into any given day. But if you pay attention, it doesn't take long to see how overscheduling yourself tends to force you into tardiness. If you make punctuality a real priority, it will force you to create a realistic schedule and say no to some things that just don't fit. That's a plus for you and for everyone around you.
9. You'll have a happier and more efficient workplace.
Creating a saner schedule is just one benefit you'll get from a commitment to being on time. The people who work with you will feel more respected, and they'll be able to use their time more efficiently as well when they're no longer wasting it waiting for meetings to start. With meetings starting on time, your chronically tardy colleagues and employees will be motivated to start showing up on time rather than arrive at meetings already in progress. They, and you, will develop a reputation for punctuality and reliability. You'll all be happier.
That sounds like a pretty good deal all around.