If you’re looking for advice on how to stop being late, you’re in the right place.
Being late is embarrassing. No one wants to be the person explaining where they’ve been, why they didn’t show up on time, why you haven’t achieved what you could have, or why a project isn’t completed when it should’ve been.
It makes you feel like a bad friend, family member, employer, employee, and overall individual because something was arranged to be done, and because of poor time management, you didn’t fulfill your end of the deal.
It makes you feel inadequate or like you’re not put together, which is a bad feeling.
Why Time Management Matters
Ironically, there are some people who are always on time or even early.
Very successful people like Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant or Stephen Covey became very successful in part because of their amazing time management skills. They were known for showing up early, preparing more than others, and being very reliable. While others who are good at what they do never achieved the levels of success they had, they’ve each earned millions of dollars and reached millions of people in part because they knew how to show up and deliver when others didn’t.
Some of the greatest success stories show that in professional life, it’s not enough to have high income skills or to master your skill or trade. It’s important to be good at what you do, offer value in the marketplace, but also to be prepared, and show up on time when you’re expected to do something.
I grew up as the kid that didn’t want to rush to go ANYWHERE. I didn’t like the adrenaline-type feeling you get when you have somewhere to be and a limited time to get there. I nearly rebelled against it, and had a pretty bad pattern of being late.
Then, after high school, I went straight into the military where rushing wasn’t an option, and neither was being late. I stayed in the military for 9 years.
We had to show up at weird times in the day or night to practice for war time or to respond to real-time events. Being late wasn’t understood. If you were late, you were in trouble.
Yes, you could explain about how your tire went flat or how your kid spilled milk all over your uniform, but if serious events were happening and you were late, none of your excuses mattered. My experience in the military really helped me to build stronger time management skills, and if I can grow time management skills, I’m confident that anyone can.
My List of 11 Time Management Hacks for How to Stop Being Late
You’re not defective. You weren’t born with a “late gene” or with the inability to be on time. Instead, if you’re struggling with being on time, it’s because you don’t have a few very important habits in place. Here is my list of 10 time management hacks for how to stop being late.
1. Create To-Do Lists and Goals
There’s only so many things you can keep in your head before you start forgetting things, or before your prioritization goes out of whack. A television show will come on, or your phone will ring, and before you know it, you’ve pivoted your mental calendar because you hadn’t really planned or calculated how your day would go.
It’s important to write down a list of non-negotiable tasks that you NEED to accomplish in the day if you want to stay productive. If you don’t make a plan for your time, someone or something will.
2. Use Alarms and Timers
Sometimes, time can fly by without you noticing how much time passed. I know I do it all the time where I’m focused on what I’m doing and when I look up, the time is completely different than what I expected.
Life happens and time doesn’t stop, so it’s important to set alarms and timers to help you keep track of time. I like to set several timers if there’s something very important for me to do. It helps me to rush the tasks I’m doing, complete them as quick as possible, and to avoid running over time on things I shouldn’t.
3. See How Long Things Really Take
When I first transitioned from the military into starting my own business, I would set more goals in my day than were possible to accomplish. I’d be saying I wanted to do tasks that realistically may take weeks, but I was giving myself one day because I didn’t know how long things would really take me.
It’s common when you transition careers or when you’re doing something new to underestimate or overestimate the amount of time it will take you–that’s why it’s important to talk to people who have done it before and to track your time when you do it. You want to have pretty sound estimates for how long things take you, so you can forecast your schedule when you repeat tasks.
4. Include Buffers
If you’re uncertain about how long something will take you, it’s important to be conservative with your estimates and estimate it will take more time than is likely–this will act as a buffer. For example, if I don’t write blog posts on health and fitness, I don’t want to say I’ll be able to write a 2000 word blog post within the time limit it takes me to write on something I’m really strong in. Instead, I’d estimate that the health and fitness blog post would probably take me more time than my normal topic, so I’ve given myself buffers and I’m not disappointed when I don’t live up to the normal pace.
5. Prepare Early
I like going to live events and speaking to entrepreneurs in my local area. Unfortunately, it usually takes me more than 30 minutes of travel time to get there and a considerable amount of prep time to deliver a lot of value.
I don’t like to go to speaking events without getting familiar with the location and space, making slides, taking SWAG, knowing my topic is something local entrepreneurs need, planning to address pain points they’re likely to have, and researching answers to questions people might have. I take a considerable amount of time to prepare before going to speaking events, but it impresses the audience when I do.
People are always impressed when they feel like you’re reliable, sharp, able to solve problems, and overall prepared–that’s why it’s a good idea to research your travel times, look over any materials that would help you to be the most valuable for your deadlines, and keep in consideration how you can “wow” those who are depending on you.
6. Set Notifications and Reminders
Sometimes a phone may die, the power may go off, or other flukes can happen that disable one device from notifying you of your appointment–that’s why I like to set notification(s) with an “s”. I might make sure my computer notifies me, my phone, and ask a friend or my husband to check in with me as well. The more accountability you have, the easier it is to avoid being late.
7. Be Clear on their Priorities
It never fails that when you have somewhere to be, things pop up. Maybe the shows on TV are the most entertaining, you get a phone call from someone you really wanted to hear from, or your kids want your attention. Stuff happens.
It’s important to be clear about what things are negotiable in your day, and what things are non-negotiable, so when unplanned events or distractions pop up, you can be clear about your priorities, and have in mind that the events can’t take away from your non-negotiable priorities.
8. Set Boundaries to Prevent Distractions
Sometimes, the distractions will continue to come up because you haven’t put boundaries in place.
You might have an unsupportive spouse who continues to try to reconfigure what you’re doing. Maybe, childcare continues to be an issue because you haven’t put boundaries in place to get the help and support you need. Sometimes, the phone or social media could be the problem because you haven’t put limits or times where you can’t use social media for leisure.
There are a plethora of problems that can come up! It’s important to have boundaries to stop things that might prevent you from being on time and achieving your goals.
9. Plan for Travel and Setup
Even if you work from home or you’re meeting someone at your house, there are still things you may want to put away, clean up, or equipment you want to set up. It’s important to calculate how long it takes you to get to your destination and to set up before it’s time for your appointments.
You also want to consider what normal routines you might have going on during your appointment time. For example, maybe you schedule an appointment time during lunch or you planned a project you want to finish on your child’s birthday. Keep these clashed in mind, so you can plan workarounds. Maybe you may want to finish extra early or communicate better, so your support system is aware and on-board.
10. Say “No” when needed
Weird stuff happens. I’ve had people ask for rides or ask to use my phone when I’m rushing to get to an appointment. Sometimes, it might seem mean, but if you have a non-negotiable goal, it’s important to say “no” to other things to accomplish your top priorities.
11. Create Routines that Make Being on-time Easier
It’s much easier to show up for appointments or meet deadlines when you have routines around it. For example, if you have a morning routine (with a wakeup time, breakfast time, shower time, and so on) and you schedule your appointments consistently after your morning routine is done, then it becomes normal to expect an appointment after your morning routine.
It’s similar to putting your keys or purse in the same place. If you consistently practice something a certain way, it becomes a habit, and habits are easier to keep once you implement them a few times.
- The Morning Routines of the Most Successful People (on the Fast Company Blog)
- 7 Things Successful Entrepreneurs do Before going to Bed (on Forbes.com)
Overall, it’s important to implement new habits if you want to avoid being late repeatedly. When you implement these new habits, it’ll make you feel better because you’ll be able to rely on yourself, and others will be able to rely on you.
If you have any questions about this, leave them in the comments section below.
Want to Learn More Strategies to Master Time Management?
Take the Business Growth Framework E-Course (Free!)
If you're looking to grow a business, but you know you struggle with time management, you'll love the prioritization module of the Business Growth E-couse (and our free Life-Planning Download!)
Start Tracking your Time
If you're looking to become a better time manager, it's key to see where you might need to improve efficiency or where you waste time. Time Doctor time tracking software records your screen, lets you take notes, and helps you track how you're using your time.
Take a Time Management Course
If you're looking for more detail on how to apply time management strategies that help you avoid being late, Udemy has 5-star rated courses that are raved about by thousands. The courses are very affordable and could be your answer.