Constantly Late for Commitments? 4 Tips to Help You Arrive on Time
After hitting snooze multiple times, you drift back off to dreamland, then frantically dash out of bed when you realize it’s almost time for work. You yank a comb through your unwashed hair and toss on some clothes, praying that nobody notices the wrinkles on your shirt. Breakfast consists of whatever you can stuff in your mouth during red lights, which is anything from leftover pizza to a bag of potato chips.
Sound familiar? If so, you’re probably part of the 13% of Americans who arrive late for work at least once a week. You may also find yourself pulling this routine when it’s time for school, medical appointments, or social functions. While the occasional late appearance is normal, you need to make some changes if you’re constantly late for commitments. All of this rushing around leads to stress, which can negatively impact your overall health. Address your constant tardiness with these 4 practical tips.
Identify Why You’re Late
Before you can strive for punctuality, you need to figure out why you’re late all the time. Is it because of factors that seem beyond your control, such as heavy traffic or a delay signing in your kids at school? Are you overly optimistic about how long it will take to drive to work, which causes you to underestimate how much time you need to get there? Perhaps you like the attention associated with a late arrival, as one psychology expert speculates. Medical issues, such as depression or fibromyalgia, may also make punctuality difficult.
Or perhaps you hate your job. If you work in a toxic environment filled with gossip or sexual harassment, you may find it hard to muster up the motivation to arrive on time. Maybe you’re bored with your current career path and wish you had chosen a different field. Your chronic lateness might even stem from a combination of the the issues listed above. Be honest with yourself about why you’re always late so that you can figure out how to prevent your tardiness.
Create a Punctuality Plan
After establishing the cause(s) of your frequent late arrivals, develop an actionable plan. If unexpected traffic often makes you late, leave for work 15 or 30 minutes earlier. If that’s simply not an option due to school or daycare dropoff times, ask your boss if you can bump back your start time a bit. You may also want to speak to your boss if a toxic work environment makes you dread clocking in each day.
See a doctor if medical issues regularly make you late for commitments. A healthcare professional can change or adjust your prescriptions or offer suggestions on how you can manage your symptoms. Perhaps getting your home more organized will help you get ready and out the door more promptly (it can also reduce stress).
Set Timers or Alarms
Sometimes poor time-management skills are the culprit behind late arrivals. If you find that you often get sucked into television shows, books, or video games before a commitment, limit the amount of time you spend on these recreational activities. Instead of saying, “Okay, I’m just going to play a little longer,” set a timer or alarm on your phone for a specific amount of time. When the buzzer sounds, stop doing whatever you’re doing. Don’t say, “Oh, I’ll just play a few more minutes.” Stopping requires self-discipline, especially if you’re preparing to head somewhere you don’t want to be - but you’re capable of doing it.
If you lack the discipline to stop, consider implementing a small reward system for yourself. You can award yourself with a gourmet coffee if you arrive on time for 10 or 15 commitments, or you can reward yourself with additional time doing the activities you love. For example, if you like to play video games before work, you can give yourself 5 extra minutes the next day if you stop playing them on time today.
Track Your Travel Times
If you still find punctuality difficult after trying the tips above, consider tracking your departure and arrival times. Make sure to mention whether traffic was heavy or light, as well as how you felt physically and mentally that day. This helps establish patterns that may contribute to your lateness. You may discover that traffic is awful if you leave at 7:35 a.m. rather than 7:30 a.m., or you might find that it’s difficult to remain focused and energetic if you take once-a-day prescription meds in the morning rather than the evening.
Tracking travel times also helps you figure out how long it actually takes to get from your home to other destinations. This makes it easier for you to leave on time for work or social commitments because you know exactly how long it will take (but don’t forget to add some buffer time to your drive in case an unexpected issue occurs).
Arriving on time requires personal accountability and self-discipline. Fortunately, these are behaviors that you’re capable of executing with a little practice. Practice the tips above consistently and watch as your tardiness rates decrease over time.