On time? I don’t remember the last time left my house on time to get somewhere. I frequently ask myself, Why am I always late? Sure, I could blame kids and come up with excuses, but the truth of the matter is it’s my fault that I am late. This is the story of why I am always late and how to be on time.
Here’s an example of how my tardiness begins…
Tale of the Lost Hat…
It was Dr. Seuss week at school. Every day was a special dress up theme like “wacky tacky” day or “crazy hat” day. Maybe your child has done some fun Dr. Seuss activities this week too?
As we were getting dressed this morning and I was running late, as usual, and my youngest child could not find her “crazy hat”. We looked everywhere, under the bed, in the closet, in the drawers, but could not find her hat. She was very disappointed. I felt terrible seeing the sad look on her face.
Because I was already late, I needed to finish getting ready so I hurried to continue my morning routine. Then I felt bad for her, mom guilt. I knew she would be disappointed without her hat. So, I decided to look for her hat again. Every second I looked for the hat was making me later. After a few minutes, I found the hat. It was in the laundry hamper mixed in with some other clothes. Her smile when I found the hat was priceless.
Do you ever have these moments in the morning? One of your children forgets to tell you about a last minute project or someone cannot find their shoe, belt or history book.
These events are always an emergency and always remembered at the last minute. I find these mornings frustrating. It’s hard not to yell, after all, these things should have been packed in a backpack and personal items plus shoes should be by the door the night before, right?
It’s easy to be in a hurry and rush all the time (especially in the mornings). Looking back, I missed opportunities to plan better and make sure we had a better morning.
Why Am I Always Late?
Before we can truly overcome our lateness and be on time all the time, we need to understand why we are late.
Think about your mornings or day when you are late, are any of the things on this list causing you to be late:
- Not having a nightly routine to prepare for the next day
- Thinking you have more time than you actually have
- Not allowing enough time or not giving yourself margin time
- Lost items (i.e. car keys, papers, books)
- Setting your alarm clock too late/getting up too late
- Traffic problems
One of the biggest reasons I am always late is because I don’t like to wait. For example, I don’t want to be at the doctor’s office 15 minutes early I would rather be just on time (which is usually late because I don’t allow enough time to arrive on time).
When I have to wait, I am always thinking about what else I could be doing with this time, what I could have finished or gotten done with these minutes. When I am waiting, I try to breathe deeply and let myself have a mental break. Take a few deep breaths.
Another reason I am chronically late is because I think I just need 20 minutes to get to this appointment (this time is based on the distance from my house to the destination, it’s not factoring in red lights or traffic).
Just the other day I was left for an appointment and I should have arrived on time, except I had to stop at every red light. Every single one. Having to stop for every red light added 5-10 minutes to the drive and of course, I was not on time, but a few minutes late.
How To Be On Time
Being on time should be easy, but if you have a personality that is chronically late, being on time can be hard. For chronically late people, they frequently have 3 struggles to overcome: they need to change their time mindset, know their time and prepare in advance.
Change Your Mindset
When you are late all the time, you probably have come to accept you are going to be late. You probably have tried different techniques and tips to be one time. But somehow you are still late.
To be on time, the first step is to change your mindset. Change how you think about yourself. Don’t describe yourself with the word “late.” Say, I am Rachel and I am on time.
If you are late because you don’t like to wait, work on changing how you think about wait time. Think about this time as a mental break, as a chance to relax for a few minutes in your busy day.
Even if you think it’s more efficient to just arrive on time usually you are late, which causes you more stress. Recognize that being a few minutes early is the better.
If you expect to be on time, we are more likely to be on time. If we think we are going to be late every day and we accept it, that’s probably what will happen.
Know Your Time
Many of us struggle to be on time in the morning. Getting to work on time and getting the kids to school on time, but you might also be late to meetings at work (which can upset your boss or supervisor).
After you change your mindset and determine you will be on time, you have to know your time.
To know your time, you need to know how long tasks will take you (how long do you need to get ready each morning), what interruptions or delays might happen, and you need a plan for the unexpected/unplanned moments (like the lost hat or the baby that spit’s up all over your suit as you are walking out the door for the airport, yes, that’s happened to me).
Here are some ways to know your time:
What time do you need to get up so you can be dressed and ready to leave for work on time?
What time do your kids need to up to get ready for school on time?
If you are late for meetings for work, plan to be 5 minutes early to the meeting room.
If you have to bring reports and data to the meetings, don’t wait till the last minute, have your reports ready 1 hour before the meeting.
For everything you are doing, always give yourself at least 15 minutes of margin time. If you are driving to work or to a meeting, depending on where you live, you might need to add 30 minutes of margin time.
In my last job, I had to travel and schedule back-to-back business meetings all day. I would hustle from one meeting to the next. My biggest mistake was that I never allowed myself margin time. Without margin time, if I got behind on the schedule, it was almost impossible to get back on schedule.
Remember, if you are early for meetings, you can always check and answer a few emails on your phone or read a book on your phone (don’t scroll Facebook), or just relax a minute or two. It’s better to be early and for your meetings than late and making other people wait for you.
Prepare in Advance
The last reason we are chronically late is that we haven’t prepared in advance.
Just like in my story about the lost hat, I didn’t make sure everything was ready the night before, so I scrambled looking for the hat in the morning. If I had taken a few minutes to prepare the night before, I would not have been stressed looking for the lost hat.
Having a solid nightly routine to prepare for the next day is a great way to help overcome tardiness. A nightly routine will help you gather everything you need for the next day and get your kids prepared for the next day, too. You can prepare backpacks, diaper bags, personal items, and plan your day on your planner.
If you are late for meetings at work, don’t wait till the last minute to prepare. Gather everything you need about 1 hour before the meeting and have it ready when you need it.
Each morning, review your schedule. If needed give yourself time to prepare for meetings and appointments.
Being late does not have to be a permanent condition. With mindset change, understanding your time and how much time you really need and preparing in advance, you can learn to be an on-time person too.
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