How To Be On Time

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(Image: Agê Barros)

Are you a punctual person? Or are you often late?

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, exams, work meetings, functions, and even interviews! (Yes I know, very unprofessional.)

Part of it was poor planning. Part of it was because of my workaholic nature. Because I would try to do as much as possible, I’d inevitably be late for my next appointment as I got caught up in what I was doing before and refused to draw a cutoff. Sometimes I was late because I overslept, and the oversleeping would be from staying up late the night before, trying to finish something instead of turning in.

While I would always inform the other party that I was running late and get a cab rather than take public transport (which sometimes helped me reach on time), I just became tired of being late after a while.

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  • Firstly, it’s not nice to keep people waiting. It’s actually pretty irresponsible, even rude. People’s time is important, just as our time is.
  • Secondly, when we’re late, we’re often flustering and rushing to find things, 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. And today, I’m usually early for my appointments.

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 clocks in your house and devices should be set to the same time. I used to have a clock that was 5-10 minutes faster than the rest and it would contribute to my error margin when going out.
  2. Don’t be on time. Be early. It’s really difficult to arrive “on time” because no one can plan with such precision. It’s much easier to arrive early. Aim to arrive 10-15 minutes early which also makes for a much more relaxing journey. Then when you reach, busy yourself with a book, podcast, or simple work tasks that you can do on your phone while you wait.
  3. Add extra time to your commute. Traveling always comes with unexpected hiccups. Sometimes the bus arrives late, or there are traffic accidents, or it rains. What’s more, the time estimate in 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 there for the first time, look it up first.
  5. Pack your stuff in advance. This includes your bag, keys, and anything you need to bring. This prevents delay from looking for things before you leave. If you’re wearing a new outfit, try it on a day early to check that it fits. The worst thing is to wear it on the day itself and realize that it doesn’t fit, and then scramble to find a new outfit (this has 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 in something to the point of missing the time, set an alarm for when it’s time to leave.
  7. Stop your previous activity once it’s time to leave. Once your alarm rings, stop right away. Wrap up what you’re doing and just go. Continue later on.
  8. Bring something to engage you during the trip. In the past, I would delay leaving for my next 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 planning for my next course with a notepad, writing my articles on my phone, listening to a podcast, reading e-books, and self-reflection. If you drive, you can set up your car audio system to listen to podcasts and audio e-books.
  9. Use reliable modes of transport. Use transport that is the most reliable, even if it takes more time. For example, if you can reach the place by bus or train, where the bus is faster but the bus service is often unreliable and arrives late, then it may be better to take the train. You want to take 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 alternate car booking apps on your phone in case your usual one goes 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 needed.

Good luck; I hope the tips help you to be 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 Run Barefoot
  10. Emotional EatingHow To Stop Emotional Eating (6-part series)