How to Always Be on Time

by Lynn Truong on 17 May 2011 4 comments
Photo: Spanishalex

When it's really important for you to be somewhere on time — job interview, first date, wedding — you have to plan ahead. These tips can help, and you may be surprised to find that it's not just as simple as "leave early." (See also: 10 Ways to Save Time by Spending Time)

1. Prepare to get there early.

I'm big on punctuality — my husband, not so much. He just can't stand the thought of getting somewhere early. He'd feel like he wasted perfectly good time that he could have spent lounging and relaxing at home — a whole 10–15 minutes of his life thrown away for no good reason. In order to be on time, you have to be okay with getting there early. It's a mindset. So prepare for it. Bring a Kindle.

2. Know how long the preparation actually takes.

You might think it only takes you 15 minutes to get ready, but on the big day you find out that 15 minutes doesn't even get you shaved. Consider that if this meeting or event is really important, you'll also want to get extra spiffed up, which takes extra time. Have you also accounted for things like having to walk a block and a half to get to your car? All those little things eat into your time before you're able to actually start traveling to your destination.

3. Have your outfit ready.

This doesn't just mean figuring out what you're going to wear. For the men, you might just need to decide on which tie, but you should actually take the clothes out of the closet and lay them out. You might even want to go ahead and put the outfit on — how long has it been since you've worn it? Maybe you've lost or gained some pounds. Maybe there's a spot that you had planned to get cleaned but forgot about. Is the outfit wrinkled? Is there a button missing? These are all things you do not have time to deal with as you're getting ready.

4. Map out your route.

Do not rely on your GPS. There are a variety of reasons it might not work on your way there. Know how to get where you're going without having to depend on it. Use Google's street view to look for landmarks that will signal that you're there. Know the parking situation.

5. Organize everything you need to bring.

You don't want to be looking under your couch for your keys right before you leave. Put everything you need to bring with you — including directions, business cards, and Kindle — all in one place.

6. Create a timeline and stick with it.

Work backward to determine what time you should start getting ready. Always pad the timing for contingencies — remember, don't be afraid to get there early. If everything goes smoothly, then you will be there early, but if something happens to delay you, at least you had accounted for that time and will still be there on time.

6. Do not distract yourself before you leave.

Once your timeline tells you to start getting ready, don't do anything that's not listed on the timeline. You can check email one last time here in case something happened to change the meeting but don't check it again. Don't turn on the TV while you're getting ready. Don't make one last phone call. Stick to the schedule!

7. Choose a time that's best for you.

Sometimes this isn't possible, but if it is, choose a time that gives you the highest probability of being on time. If you're not a morning person, don't schedule something that is going to rely on an alarm waking you up on time. If you're not close to the venue, try to avoid peak traffic time. If you often have to work late, don't schedule a dinner that depends on you leaving work right on time.

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Guest's picture

I'm pretty bad at being on time - I get it from my event-oriented family. But my wife, who comes from a very time-oriented group of people, is very good about keeping track of me and keeping on me about being on time.

Guest's picture

I hate being late and I hate when others are late. I have a few people in mind that I might forward this to...

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MaloMonster

I'm usually early rather than late, aiming for the +/- 5 minutes difference between people's watches. So I'll usually arrive at at 10:00 meeting at 9:55.

I will never forget one friend's opinion on my timetable: "Five minutes early is ten minutes late."

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Darleen

Super post with great suggestions, particularly with #6. Do not distract yourself before you leave ... such as Twitter, of FB or just one more check of email or text :)
And one more - if you label yourself as 'always late' or 'always get lost' - you will be, as you have programmed yourself to be just that. So STOP IT! Repeat 10 times - ' I am always early and strive to be punctual' - or something such as that. Thus when you follow the above steps it will be easy as you are prepared and reprogrammed your brain to be the 'early bird'. If you are late one time - say 'that is so unusual for me, as I am always early'. I know as I am reformed and now 'always early' !