Sure, being punctual means slightly different things depending on the country you call home. In Japan, arriving at an appointment a mere minute late is tardiness, whereas in China, arriving within 10 minutes after the scheduled meeting is not considered late.
Generally speaking, however, a person who is always on time, no matter where they are, is someone who acknowledges that life circumstances can set them back by a few minutes here and there. Therefore, those who arrive “on time” are the people who plan to arrive early every day.
Whatever your reasons, be clear about your incentives and keep reminding yourself of them, even if it’s something silly like your local coffee shop running out of your favorite dessert because you slept in that one day.
If you’re a visual person, you can write down a list of incentives that make you want to stop being late (of course, you can do the same exercise in your mind). The stronger and more personal they are, the better. Having the list on hand and revisiting it on days you’re struggling with time can really inspire you to become more prompt. Punctual people are always mindful of the consequences of their tardiness.
To fix this skewed sense of time and become more punctual, "guesstimating" your schedule isn’t enough. You need precision. So get a timer and record how long it takes for you to get ready in the morning, complete weekly cleaning, drive from home to work at rush hour, etc.
Write down a full list of activities and tasks and how long each of them take. These are useful data. Now use this knowledge to plan out your day in a more precise and organized manner. Over time, this will become second nature, and you’ll no longer need to write everything down.
But don’t stop here - keep tracking your progress for a week to see if the schedule you created for yourself actually works. If it doesn’t, go back to the drawing board and tweak the problematic areas you’ve identified.
Another interesting observation you may make after writing down the time it actually takes you to complete daily tasks is that some activities take way too long. For instance, you may have had no idea you spend an entire hour drinking coffee and having breakfast in the morning every day.
Cutting breakfast time in half will allow you to squeeze in a short walk or exercise routine before breakfast or simply allow you to leave the house 15 minutes earlier and arrive at work on time.
To help you adhere to the shorter desired time for such “problematic” tasks, set up a timer at the start. When it rings, stop doing the task or activity right away and move on to the next thing in your schedule. Over time, you’ll teach yourself to complete these tasks in a timely manner, and you'll move through your day faster.
One side note - please don’t cut down too much time on activities you need or those you enjoy. For example, taking 10 minutes less to vacuum the house is no big deal, but giving yourself just 3 minutes to blow-dry your hair may not be so realistic.
If you know you have trouble arriving at important meetings and appointments on time, set up 3 reminders for each meeting: one a day prior to the meeting, another one 1 hour before your departure, and the last one 15 minutes before you have to leave. This way, you’ll be able to plan your day before the meeting and also give yourself enough time to get ready right before the appointment and leave on time.
Related Article: 9 Golden Rules For Higher Productivity
We’re all guilty of this one, but people who are late do it a lot more. You don’t want to waste time, so 10 minutes before you have to leave for a meeting, you decide to sort the mail, water the houseplants, or return a missed phone call. The problem is, it rarely takes just 10 minutes, doesn’t it? So you end up running late again.
In cases like these, try to resist the urge to complete some last-minute tasks, and just leave early. Worst case scenario, you’ll arrive at your appointment a bit earlier than expected, and spend the waiting time on an errand like checking your emails or organizing your handbag.
Developing punctuality habits can take a little time - just like any other habit. Meanwhile, you can trick yourself into being a little more prompt by simply setting the clocks in your home forward by 10-15 minutes. This trick really works, but it has a few drawbacks. For one, your family members may not appreciate this little clock “prank,” plus it doesn’t help you solve punctuality issues outside of your home. Hence, it’s not exactly a permanent solution.
There’s no way for you to do everything on time when you have too much on your plate to begin with. When planning your day, be realistic (if not a bit pessimistic) about what you can accomplish.
The easiest way to do so is by remembering to include a “time cushion” of just 30 minutes in-between appointments and tasks. This is especially important for tasks you can’t fully control, like grocery shopping - it could take half an hour, but if the line is long, it could take twice as long. And if nothing goes wrong? Well, then you have yourself 30 minutes to relax and de-stress.
Of course, this is easier said than done, as this approach will probably require you to learn to say “no” to something you don’t have time for, including meetups with friends and family. But think about it this way - scheduling the activity to another day and showing up on time is actually more respectful of your loved one’s time (not to mention your own). Remember, punctual people accept that they can’t possibly do it all.
One of the main reasons why people prefer to be late is because they can’t stand waiting in line. Embracing the fact that some periods of waiting are unavoidable can be stressful at first. You may feel that you’re wasting your time. But the truth is, you don’t have to.
If you show up early, you can always catch up on smaller errands like planning the following day in your journal, returning phone calls, answering emails, reading a book, or catching up on any personal project you can carry with you in a handbag. Problem solved, easy peasy!
Rush hour isn’t the only traffic issue you can encounter on your way to a destination. Luckily, there are many easy ways for you to check live traffic updates and plan an alternative route if need be. Navigation apps, such as Google Maps or Waze, all have live traffic updates these days. Just make sure to check the situation on the roads an hour or so prior to departure, and not 5 minutes before your leave.
You may think, at first, what’s the connection between sleep and tardiness? Then again, many people struggle to be on time precisely in the mornings, and sleep deprivation has everything to do with it. Make no mistake - sleep deprivation always goes against productivity. After all, when you wake up tired and grumpy, the entire morning is kind of ruined. Plus, sleep deprivation is known to reduce one’s physical and mental performance, so the time you’ve saved by not sleeping may end up costing you more.
The help of family members and friends can go a long way too. For instance, if you struggle to wake up on time, have someone wake you in the morning - either personally or through the phone. Likewise, you can talk to a specific person about your struggles and successes in beating tardiness. This way, you can keep yourself accountable for your progress. And who knows, maybe your friend, colleague, or family member can help you develop practical strategies for the problems you’re facing too?