Always Running Late? Here’s How to Stop

stop running lateAre you that person? The guy who’s chronically 10 minutes late, or the gal who’s always frantically running to be on time?

Today’s the day to break that habit.

Though often excused as a badge of honor for the busy and overworked individual, being late is truly a destructive pattern.

Why? Because it’s:

  • Stressful: a chaotic existence causing physical and mental strain
  • Professionally harmful: sends a message that you can’t be responsible
  • Socially damaging: tells others that you don’t respect their time

Make a choice to change. Here are five steps you can take today to stop being late:

Leverage your planner

A majority of people are late because they are winging-it, going through their day without consulting a schedule. They’re not keeping a realistic view of their time.

A planner offers a visual reminder of your day ahead. It’s virtually impossible to be a highly-functioning individual without first scheduling your time with a planner, and next, consulting that planner schedule throughout your day.

Spend 5 minutes each morning writing out your schedule and keep your planner with you, always. Why burden your mind to remember your schedule? Keep it all spelled out in front of you.

Reverse-engineer your plans

Know ahead of time what it’s going to take to get where you’re going. Start from your appointment and work backwards.

For example, if your appointment’s at 10am — ask yourself:

  • What time do you want to be there?
  • Will there be a line?
  • Do you walk far from the parking lot?
  • Will it take time to park?
  • Does your car need gas?
  • How long will it take you to get ready and out the door?

Total-up your time estimations. Even if it’s for a meeting just down the hall, you should always consider the variables in computing your departure time.

Expect the unexpected

On-time people always allow themselves leeway. Whenever possible, leave a cushion of time — an extra 5-10 minutes — to account for those unpredictable occurrences that can make you late. Think of things like: traffic jams, a bathroom stop, a printer malfunction, a mistaken right turn, or unpredictable weather.

No, you can’t always prepare for the unknown, but you can leave a little room for error. If nothing unexpected occurs, make use of this small extra time by reading a book you brought along. It’s a win-win situation.

Create reminders

Technology’s best contribution to time management is the automatic reminder. Use these religiously because when you’re deep into a task it’s easy to lose track of time. Create a reliable reminder system using your cell phone stopwatch, Outlook, mobile planning app, alarm clock, web calendar, watch alarm, or even an egg timer.

Whatever you use, make it easy to set and always visible to you. And remember: be certain that your reminder gives you ample time to prepare.

Prepare for launch

If just getting out the door is often your biggest issue, then you need a Launch Plan. Quite often the problem lies in the time between when you think you’re leaving and when you actually get out the door. That’s your fail point.

As part of your planning, always start by writing in your day planner a list of everything that needs to be done before your appointment. Build-in prep time to gather your documents, shut down your computer, pack your bag, find your keys, get a coat, grab your phone, and anything else your need. A little launch preparation goes a long way.

Start today

Being on-time is a by-product of successful time management. Make a commitment and a plan to be on-time, starting today.

[photo by Jan Tik]
Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at

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