How to Be On Time

ETMAre you someone who is chronically late for meetings and other commitments? Do you know someone who is chronically tardy?

Joy Ghose posted a great article on about how to avoid being chronically late – or how to be on time.

You are probably either a person who is chronically late for things or a person who is irritated by others who are chronically late for things.

If you know someone who is usually late for meetings and other commitments this information could be helpful to them. If you are chronically late yourself read further… you could benefit from this.

Ghore writes:

While the effect of tardiness on the bottom line of a company is significant, adding to that cost is the ripple effect of late-starting meetings, which affect productivity throughout the organization. 

However, being punctuality challenged is not just about missing the plane or not reaching a meeting on time, it also means monetary penalties like late fees and a bad reputation among peers. “Many people who are constantly late think it is not a big deal. They think they will just do it better next time. But it is a big deal. Your professional reputation rides on your behaviour and actions much more than you may think,” says Craig Jarrow, a US-based time management expert and author of Time Management Ninja.

Psychologists have found that chronically late people simply underestimate how long a task will take by as much as 40%, even if they have completed a similar task in the past within a specific time frame. 

In 1994, psychology professors Roger Buehler, Dale Griffin and Michael Ross performed the first extensive research on the tendency to underestimate future duration. The study, published in the Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, states that when undergraduates were asked to estimate when they would finish their honours thesis, participants underestimated their completion time by 39%. In the same study, when participants made predictions for an everyday, non-academic task (like writing a letter to a friend) and an academic task (like completing an essay) that would be finished within the next week, they underestimated completion time by 46%.

Here are Ghore’s recommendations for how to overcome chronic tardiness and my observations about them:

Prepare ahead

Nothing makes it easier for you to be on time than preparing ahead. Frequently check your schedule and be aware of what obligations you have coming up. Allow more time than you need for transportation, preparation and whatever else you have to do to be ready and be on time. The more you prepare the less likely you will late.

Get Realistic about how long it will take to do things and get places

Ghore cites studies that find that chronically late people chronically underestimate how long it takes to get things done and get to places they have to be. If you do this become aware of it and counter these tendencies by intentionally allowing more time for what must be done. If you think it will take 30 minutes to get to a meeting allow 45 minutes, or even 60 minutes. This will allow you to be on time even when traffic slows you down or something interferes with your progress.

Learn to say no to avoid over commitment

Some people are often late because they over commit. Be realistic about how much you can really accomplish and limit your commitments so you can be on time. Put all your obligations and appointments on a calendar and monitor them to make sure you are not over committing. Learn to say no when people ask you to do more than you have time for.

Don’t try to be on time; be early

I’ve used this method all my life. I’m told it is expected in Japan. If you are habitually early for everything you will rarely ever be late.

Don’t be scared of down time

There are many advantages to being early and having a bit of down time before something starts. You can often choose the best seat. You have time to gather your thoughts, organize your materials and think about what is about to happen. You can relax and feel ready. If you have enough time you can even us it to answer emails or read a bit.

Keep a time buddy

For those who just cannot seem to accomplish these things alone it might be wise to ask a friend or colleague who is habitually on time or early to be your coach on this. They can remind you to leave early so you arrive early and help you be more realistic about how long things will take to get done.

Read the rest of Ghore’s article here.

Learn how to manage your time to achieve more of what you want to do in my book, Effective Time Management.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.