It’s certainly not uncommon for people to run late for events, appointments, school, work, getting together with the gang or what have you. Sometimes it’s very inappropriate or the worst that happens is you miss the opening scene of a movie, no big deal. Cars do break down, coffee gets spilled down the front of a job interview outfit, the dog doesn’t come when called, kids have meltdowns or your replacement gets held up. Unexpected traffic goes without saying. Some people have given up on ever being on time and depend on others to accommodate their constant tardiness.
However, many a job has been lost or opportunities missed and plenty of friends and family ticked off due to late arrivals. There are more excuses for sloppy punctuality than just poor planning such as anxiety, dreading an event to the point that you hope to slink in and slink out barely being noticed. Is there a chance that being able to rush onto the scene, spewing apologies, gives you a little more leverage over a situation? Perhaps you feel a sense of power making others wait?
The stress over constantly being late has more than a physical and mental effect on you, it sets you up for more accidents, whether it’s a fender bender or you roll your ankle tripping down stairs. Who needs a ticket for speeding or an incomplete stop at a stop sign? Mathematically speaking, speeding really won’t get you to your destination faster unless you’re well over the limit on a long, open road trip.
So what can we do to lower our stress, get out the door without having to turn back to retrieve something forgotten and stop having family automatically tacking a half an hour onto our expected time of arrival? It comes down to habits, deliberate planning and commitment. Here are a few approaches to try:
• One of the old standbys is setting one or two particular clocks ahead as if to trick yourself into thinking you’re on time, however this method can sometimes cause anxiety by forcing your brain to think you’re already behind the 8 ball.
• Even if you wear a watch, be sure to have clocks in critical zones such as bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen, especially if there are other household members who need to be in on breaking tardy habits.
• Start small with one or two appointments, three days out of the work week or the next two scheduled events, leaving a full 10-15 minutes early and having something (productive perhaps?) to keep yourself occupied if you arrive ahead of schedule. Keep a magazine in the car, close your eyes and breathe deeply for a few minutes or use your smartphone to stay on top of emails or delete unwanted pictures from your gallery. If you’ve had some successful arrivals, add another occasion or event on to your commitment. Start small but think big! Setting new habits can take multiple runs so just keep at it until you no longer feel like the white rabbit from Wonderland.
• Try not to sneak little stops in even if you’re running ahead. You know if you run into the dollar/grocery store or what have you “real quick,” you can guarantee something will hold up your transaction, putting you behind schedule. It’s tempting, I know, but here’s the time to pretend there is such a thing as Murphy ’s Law.
• Set yourself up the night before if you have to leave early in the morning, have your outfit ready, coffee maker set up, tote bag/pocketbook ready, outerwear, etc. This is a crucial step if you have kids: teach them to have their backpacks set to go the night before as well as outfits picked out, field trip permission slips signed, bagged lunches planned and possibly pre-packed. I’ve used a timer with some kids who learned “getting ready to go” habits better by having a timer go off to remind them to hurry some activities up.
• Have a checklist next to the door to go over every time you leave home, it can be as simple as a sticky note. When we leave in the morning I always review the checklist: cats fed, heat down, everyone has their phones, medications have been taken, garbage or recycling at the curb. It may seem silly but it’s a sure fire way of making sure you always have the basics covered.
• If you’re heading somewhere unfamiliar, be sure to confirm the address and review where you are heading beforehand with a map or on your GPS. I’ve really enjoyed using the street view feature in Google maps to give me some idea of what my destination looks like if it’s a city address that isn’t clear cut. Detours can be unnerving so it’s sometimes worthwhile for the nervous driver to check traffic reports ahead of departure, especially if you’ll be traveling during rush hours. Don’t completely rely on GPS, it always seems to be at the worst time that you’re not able to maintain a strong signal or your phone has died and you don’t have a way to power up. Of course you know I’m going to advise you to have a car or portable battery charger for your phone.
• Are you frequently late because you’re overcommitted? Besides needing to limit your obligations, you’ll need to call up the troops to delegate to. Can another household member fetch the mail, walk the dog or start the car on a bitterly cold winter day?
• Don’t get sucked into the abyss that can be texting. One quick text stating that you are on your way is fine but if the conversation goes past that, it’s a waste of time and worth a quick phone call. Needless to say, always be safe with your cell phone use on the road.
Lastly, stop saying that you’ll be late to your own funeral! That is just sabotaging self-talk that won’t get you anywhere and certainly not anywhere on time. We all have the capacity to change unfavorable habits and learn to respect not only our own time but others