Five tips for better timekeeping
Are you often late for interviews, meetings, appointments or social events? Have you ever missed a good opportunity, upset someone or been reprimanded because of your late arrival?
While we all get unavoidably delayed from time to time, some people develop a reputation for it to the extent that it’s said they would be late for their own funeral.
If you recognise yourself as someone who has poor timekeeping skills, here are five tips to help you arrive on time, every time.
1. Accept that being late is not acceptable
There’s no point in reading the rest of our tips if you haven’t yet realised that it’s not OK to be seen as someone who is always late.
Here are a few reasons why:
a) Lateness is rude – it shows no respect for the other person. It suggests that you had something better to do than turn up on time.
b) Lateness messes up other people’s plans – whether you are late for a meeting or an evening out with friends, people will end up waiting around for you, which can have a detrimental impact on their plans or their enjoyment of an event.
c) Lateness messes up your own plans – arriving late for a job interview will not help you get the job. Arriving late for a medical appointment may mean that it gets cancelled. If you get a reputation for always arriving late, people may get into the habit of starting without you and you could miss something important.
d) Lateness leaves you flustered – being late usually means you end up rushing to get where you’re going and you arrive feeling hot and bothered. It can also put you – and others – at risk, as when you’re hurrying you are more likely to cross the road without looking or drive over the speed limit.
2. Work out why you are always running late
There isn’t one simple reason why people are late. Psychiatrists have looked into the phenomenon and come up with a range of ‘types’; these include:
- Using lateness for status – to suggest that you are busier/more important than the person waiting for you, or to make an entrance.
- Lateness due to distraction – you’re about to leave the house or office then you get distracted by something that you should really leave until later, like hanging out the washing or finishing off a piece of work.
- Delayed by anxiety – you are going to a medical appointment that makes you feel anxious or a meeting that you’re worried about.
- “It’s just me” – if you start to think of yourself as someone who is always late, you will only perpetuate the myth.
- So much to do, so little time – see point 5 for an elaboration on this theme.
In all cases, being late will not improve things – but recognising why you are making yourself late will help you address the situation.
3. Watch and learn
It may seem obvious, but if you don’t wear a watch, you are less likely to be aware of the time. Many people today rely on looking at their mobile phone for the time, but this can often mean taking it out of a pocket or bag. Glancing at your watch is a lot quicker.
If you do rely on your phone for timekeeping, why not set the alarm at least 10 minutes before you need to leave the house or office, as a reminder that it’s time to get ready and go.
4. Be prepared
If you launch into each day without any preparation, you could end up wasting precious time, with the result that you arrive late. If you have several places you need to be, try to arrange a logical schedule rather than going back and forth.
Consider external elements and work round them: for example, avoiding certain routes when you know traffic will be heavy such as during rush hour or when parents are picking up their kids from school.
5. Make realistic plans
If you try to fit too much in a day, then you are more likely to end up being late at some point. Look at your schedule for the day. Is it realistic? Can you cut anything out or move it to another day? Can you build in a break between appointments in case one runs over?
If your workplace is setting an unreasonable schedule for you, talk to a senior member of staff and see if they can reassess your workload. If you are setting your own schedule, consider whether you are subconsciously trying to create an aura of being permanently busy to impress others or to avoid your own feelings of guilt that you might not be doing enough.
Also, think about whether you might be more productive if you focused on a few key tasks. Remember, people will respect you more if you politely say no to things than if you take on too much then fail to deliver.
Take a little time to consider why you are late and how this can disadvantage you. Look into the options for improving your timekeeping and take on board any changes you need to make in your approach. Rushing about can fuel your adrenaline, but sometimes we need to take the time to reassess our approach to how we structure each day.