Man running late to catch bus.

How to Break Free From Chronic Lateness

Oh, to never be rushing for a plane again! If you’re like me, being punctual can feel like an intricate art and science whose mysteries elude you. It’s undeniable that punctuality is a great asset in life. So what do you do when you find yourself scrambling at the last minute, time after time?

There are a variety of reasons we might regularly run late. Many people struggle with certain executive function tasks such as prioritizing, time estimation, or starting tasks which can make timeliness challenging, but it's possible to get better at it!

Take a look at these ideas, including tips on mindset and motivation, to set new habits to stop being late.

Ask Yourself Why You Tend to Be Late

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Did you know many people tend to be late because what they hate more than being late is being too early? Imagine going through all the effort of arriving early, only to awkwardly wait around, wishing you would have better used that time.

Some people might be afraid of downtime or feel unconsciously pressured to be productive every minute of the day. If you can relate, don’t worry! You’re not the only one. But it’s important to try getting comfortable with being early, starting with why punctuality is important – which brings us to the next point.

Motivation and Benefits: Why It Matters to Be on Time

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If you're always late, you may feel defensive and frustrated about it. The only motivation you may have left is to get other people off your back about being on time. But that's not much of a motivator. To turn that around, let's take a step back and look at how being on time really benefits YOU.

Perhaps the most important is that it reduces stress and anxiety. Instead of running around and feeling rushed, you’re well organized and spending the time in a relaxed, mindful way.

Being punctual also boosts confidence and success, as well as communicating to colleagues and managers that you’re capable, reliable, professional, and have great time management skills. Ask yourself what other benefits you gain with this new habit, and let it drive you going forward.

Empathy Can Boost Motivation

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Empathizing with others by thinking about how our tardiness affects them can offer a lot of perspective and incentive to be on time. Showing up on time is ultimately a sign of respect. It is a sign to others that you value the other person’s time, effort, and presence. People tend to see it as something that means you have self-discipline and competence.

On the other hand, being late to a meeting could cost you a promotion or business opportunity. It might cost you the esteem of a friend who no longer wants to wait twenty minutes every time you hang out.

Start Wearing a Wristwatch

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Sounds simple, but wearing a watch is a fashionable and practical way to improve your tardiness. You can estimate time better, and organizing tasks and activities throughout the day is easier. Bonus points if the watch delights your aesthetic taste or if it has sentimental value, as it will provide additional motivation.

Set a Reminder

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In our age of speedy technology and information overload, it can be challenging to mentally juggle thirty different things every day. Pure motivation or a watch doesn’t always suffice for being on time. The good news is, it doesn’t have to.

You can experiment with many cool apps or just your phone to set a reminder for when you should start getting ready. You can also go the extra mile to customize a cute ringtone or funny reminder to lighten any pressure.

Prepare in Advance

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The best way to ensure success is to prepare for it. This can include picking out your outfit the night before, packing a lunch, buffing your shoes, or even choosing a perfume. By doing this in advance, you’ll avoid wasting precious minutes (and decision fatigue) when you should already be halfway to a meet-up.

Reward Yourself

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Positive reinforcement is a great way to cement any good habits. If you’re on time to the office, get that fancy caramel latte for the day. If you’re five minutes early to a night out with friends, validate yourself with positive affirmations and recognize your progress so far.

Each occasion deserves a pat on the back for a job well done. Lastly, you can also ask for a loved one’s support and encouragement in this personal challenge to improve yourself.

Plan for a Margin of Error

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It’s always a smart idea to prepare for possible interferences. Maybe there’s heavy traffic, or by the time you step outside it’s starting to rain so you have to run back after an umbrella.

Whatever the case, it’s a good practice to anticipate trouble and set aside 10 minutes, or more depending on the distance you'll be traveling, for those unwanted surprises. So rather than planning for exactly how long it will take to get somewhere, plan for that time, plus an added safety margin, especially when it's really important to be on time.

Turn Your Clock 10 Minutes Earlier

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If mentally planning for that extra 10 minutes doesn’t work, try this age-old hack: change the clock on your phone or wristwatch to 10 minutes earlier. This hack works best if you’ve never (or seldom) used it before, as one can easily forget about the time-tinkering once it’s in place. Before you know it, you’ll be fashionably early for a change.

Time Yourself

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Maybe you’ve just changed jobs or apartments or simply want to take a different route downtown, and you don’t have a realistic estimation of time yet. Maybe it’s none of these, and you just never checked the clock to begin with. Time how long it takes to get places.

It’s okay to make mistakes. But it’s helpful to learn from them by timing your routes, routines, or habits: that way, you already have an improvement plan in place!

Avoid Distractions

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When we have a meet-up in an hour, the illusion of additional time can make us waste precious minutes on trivial things like checking our social media, touching up any make-up, or other activities that come to mind at the last minute. These add up, and skipping even just one or two (if not all) of these unnecessary activities can help us arrive on time.

Remember the tip above about setting alarms? If you need help preventing distractions, set multiple alarms to remind you to keep to your goal of leaving on time. You can label them things like ‘almost time to leave' or ‘finish up.'

Time is Stranger Than We Thought

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Time itself is a strange concept, and when we looked into it further, it's stranger than we thought.

Author: S.K. Lumen

Title: Writer

Expertise: women's personal development, mental health, self love

S.K. Lumen is a writer, artist and blogger who is passionate about helping women become their best selves. She writes about personal development, self-love, self-care, wellness & mental health.