Are you one of those people who are always running a few minutes behind because you want to get ‘just one more thing’ done before you walk out the door? It does feel good when you’ve checked things off of your to do list first thing in the morning. It doesn’t feel so good when you’re stressing in the car and then arrive for an appointment or to the office late.
There are a lot of downsides to being someone who is notoriously late. If someone is waiting for you for a one-on-one meeting or appointment, it disrespects their schedule when you’re late and makes it appear as if your time is more important than their time. I’m sure that’s not the image you want to portray. If you’re late for a group meeting, it’s frustrating for people to sit and wait to begin because you’re not present yet. Most people already feel like meetings are taking time away from other work that needs to be done, so extending the meeting for someone who’s late only prolongs the meeting for everyone. Or, if they start the meeting without you, you may miss some important information.
There are further downsides when you’re running late. You’ll guarantee yourself red lights, slow drivers and construction on the road. The chances are good that the line for your local coffee stand will be longer too. If you’re running on schedule, more than likely green lights will be your beacon to guide you to your destination. It’s ironic how often that seems to happen. Anxiety levels rise sharply when we’re running late and can cause us to take some unsafe steps like speeding or not fully stopping at stop signs. Once you’re running late, you’ll probably find that your whole day is off by a few minutes or more. Being late really seems to have a domino effect on our time. And finally, when you come rushing into a room mumbling an apology, complaining about traffic and looking stressed, you’re not entering the space looking professional or pulled together.
If you’re a leader in a company, it’s up to you to set a good example for the importance of respecting everyone’s time. Not only is it respectful, it also affects the company’s bottom line in regards to productivity. If you aren’t being a good example, it can have an effect on morale and likely lead to others following your example. If you show everyone it appears fine to be late, they may take it as permission to do the same.
Follow these strategies to help you improve punctuality habits:
- If you find yourself running late, communicate with people who are expecting you so they aren’t left wondering what’s going on. This will give them an opportunity to either fill their time while they wait or reschedule with you.
- Take a hit on your invoice if you’re late by giving your client a discount for the inconvenience. This can be a motivating reason to be on time so you can collect your payment in full.
- Be realistic about how much time you really need to get ready at home, plus drive time and any stops along the way. Sometimes we estimate how much time we need but we are way off due to the length of our morning beauty routine, unexpected traffic delays and stops along the way. So, time yourself for three days in a row from the time you get out of bed until you get to your first destination to see what the average time seems to be. Even if you go somewhere different every day, at least it will give you a better idea than you have now about how long it takes you to get ready each day.
- I know we’ve all heard it many times, but being prepared for the next day the evening before does go a long way toward getting out the door on time. Every time I put together my outfit in the evening for the next day, I feel like I have a head start on my morning. Look for all the ways you can prep at night, from packing lunches to getting your coffee maker ready to make your magical elixir.
- If you have control over your own schedule, aim to drive to the office, attend meetings and schedule appointments during off-peak traffic times.
- Consider scheduling meetings via video chats and cut out drive time altogether.
- Set notifications on your phone to remind yourself of upcoming appointments and meetings. Give yourself plenty of time to wrap up what you’re doing to transition to the next activity. I like to set a thirty minute reminder for myself prior to meetings and appointments.
Life happens and, even with the best intentions, there are times when we’re going to run late. But if you’re known for being reliable and on time, people are usually going to give you some grace. If you’re late on a regular basis, it can be difficult to create new habits to help you become more punctual, but it’s certainly not impossible. It’s worthwhile to improve your time management skills so you’ll be seen as reliable and professional while paving the way for a less stressful day.
Monika Kristofferson is a professional organizer, productivity consultant, author and founder of Efficient Organization in Lake Stevens. Reach her at 425-220-8905. (Courtesy of my efficiency column in the Everett Herald Business Journal).