How To Be On Time

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(Image: Agê Barros)

Up until my 20s, I used to be late for many of my appointments. It didn’t matter what the appointment was — I had been late for social appointments, school lectures, important exams, work meetings, functions, and interviews (yes I know, very unprofessional).

Part of it was poor planning. Part of it was because of my workaholic nature. Because I was always trying to do as much as possible, I’d inevitably run late for my next appointment as my previous task overran. Sometimes it was because I overslept — and the oversleeping was from staying up late the night, before trying to finish up something instead of going to sleep.

While I would always inform the other party that I was running late, or get a cab (which would cut down my traveling time and help me reach on time), I just became tired of being late after a while.

  • Firstly, it’s not nice to keep people waiting. It’s actually pretty irresponsible, even rude. People’s time is important, just as your time is.
  • Secondly, when we’re late, we’re often flustering and rushing to find things, to get to our destination  — and that’s just tiring.
  • Thirdly, being late often meant being late for the appointments later too. I realized that the flustering, panicking were totally unnecessary and could be avoided by being on time. 

So I just changed the way I do things. I worked on managing my time and tasks better. Today I’m usually early for my appointments.

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As some readers have asked me for tips to be punctual, here are 10 tips that have helped me.

  1. Sync your devices to the same time. To avoid confusion, all the clocks in your house, computer, and phone should be set to the same time. Either that or only refer to one device for time. I used to have a clock that was 5-10 minutes faster than the rest (the time difference would vary over time too) and it would contribute to my error margin when preparing for my meetings out of home.
  2. Don’t be on time. Be early. It’s actually really difficult to arrive “on time” because no one can plan with such precision when there are things out of your control (e.g. traffic jam, bus arriving late). It’s much easier to arrive early. Aim to arrive 10-15 minutes early which also creates a much more relaxing journey. Then when you reach, busy yourself a book, podcast, or some micro-work tasks you can do on your phone while you wait.
  3. Add extra time to your journey. Traveling always comes with unexpected hiccups. Sometimes the bus arrives late, sometimes there are traffic accidents, sometimes there are wet weather conditions. What’s more, the timing estimate given by travel apps and Google Maps is often inaccurate. Add extra time to your journey length and leave the house early.
  4. Plan your route. If you are going here for the first time, look it up first. Don’t look it up only before departure; it may be too late.
  5. Pack your stuff in advance. This includes your bag, keys, things you need to bring, etc. This prevents delay from looking for things before leaving. If you are going to wear a new outfit, try it on a day in advance to check that it fits. The worst thing is to wear it and realize it doesn’t fit or something is off, and then scramble to find a new outfit (happened to me before).
  6. Set an alarm for when it’s time to leave. It’s easy to lose track of time when we’re busy. If you’re often very engrossed, to the point of missing the time, set an alarm to notify you when it’s time to leave.
  7. Stop your previous activity once it’s time to leave. Many times we’re late because the previous activity overran. Leave once it’s time to leave — don’t give it the chance to overrun. Wrap up what you’re doing and just go. Continue later on. The more you drag on, the more you’ll run late.
  8. Bring something to engage you during the trip. In the past, I would delay leaving for the appointment because I was still in work mode and I felt that commuting was a waste of time. I later found plenty of ways to be productive during my commutes, such as listening to podcasts, reading ebooks, planning my courses with a notepad, self-reflection, and even working on a laptop. Of course, if you drive, the options are fewer, but you can hook up your car audio system to listen to podcasts or audio ebooks.
  9. Use reliable modes of transport. If you have different transport options, paths, and routes, then use the one that is the most reliable and predictable, even if it’s the path that may take a little more time. At least it takes the guesswork out of the traveling journey.
  10. Have backup plans. Last but not least, have a backup plan in case your current transport fails, e.g. save alternative car booking services in your phone in case your usual service is down, or book a cab over taking the bus if you are running late.

If you know you’ll be late despite all efforts to be on time, contact the person right away. This gives the person time to plan their schedule accordingly. Reschedule if it’s needed.

Good luck; I hope the tips will help you in being on time from now on! :)

This is part of the Cultivate Good Habits Series. Check out the full series:

  1. 21 Days To Cultivate Life Transforming Habits
  2. Waking Early9 Reasons To Wake Up Early | 21 Tips To Wake Up Early
  3. Quitting Soda5 Reasons To Quit Drinking Soda (And How To Do It)
  4. Improve Your PostureBenefits of a Good Posture (And 13 Tips to Get One)
  5. Be TV-Free: 10 Reasons You Should Stop Watching TV
  6. Being On Time: How To Be On Time
  7. Meditation10 Reasons You Should Meditate | How To Meditate in 5 Simple Steps
  8. Manage Emails EffectivelyHow To Spend Less Time on Emails
  9. Run Barefoot: 10 Reasons To Start Running Barefoot
  10. Emotional EatingHow To Stop Emotional Eating (6-part series)