5 Simple Strategies for Being on Time

5 Simple Strategies for Being on Time at orgjunkie.com

So last week I accidentally blew up my Facebook page.  I shared a link from a fellow I don’t even know who wrote an article on how people who are constantly late are selfish and rude.  Well people took umbrage to such a statement and oh the defending of the lateness that ensued.  Now I shared and agreed with this article only because he was clearly referring to people that are late ALL OF THE TIME.  We all know people like this in our lives…it doesn’t matter the time, place or occasion, you can always count on them to be late.  I know a few people like this myself.  And I’ll be quite honest it does annoy the heck out of me.  I do feel that it is rude to make someone wait.  I’m not talking about, and nor was the article, the person that is occasionally late as things do happen once and awhile that are out of our control.  However for some people being late is a habit that continues to happen over and over and over again.

I have wanted to write this post since the beginning of this blog 8.5 years ago.  And I’ve put it off because I know it’s a sensitive subject and I certainly don’t want to offend anyone.  BUT I also think I can help you if you struggle with being on time.  I’ve always said that organizing is a skill that anyone can do once you learn the steps involved.  I also believe this to be true for time management.  There are certain skills necessary to make punctuality possible and they most certainly can be learned and put into practice by anyone.  Honestly I really think this to be true, even for the chronically late amongst us.  I don’t think there are people who are just born to be on time and those of us who aren’t. Sometimes it comes down to what practices (and eventually habits) you put into place to make it happen.

You see I don’t have a timely tiara that I wear proudly around everyday that just magically gets me to where I need to be at the time I said I’d be there.  I only wish! There is no magic here or anything special about me at all. I would be so lost without the strategies I use and the habits and routines I implement.

So many things go into making sure I’m timely and many of those things I’m sharing with you today below.  I’m not going to lie, it can be exhausting, believe me I get it.  I have three kids and for awhile there I had three kids in three different schools. And if I had a 9:00 am meeting after the rush of the morning, I might arrive exhausted and sweaty but gosh darn I made it.  Imagine how disappointing it is then to arrive on time only to have the other parties show up a half hour to 45 minutes late.  I imagine all the things I could have gotten done in that time frame rather than just sitting there waiting and waiting.  I can get groceries for the week done in half an hour or other errands on my list for the day.  I don’t like wasting time and it’s not nice for someone else to waste my time for me.  Does that make the person making me wait a bad person?  Of course not and of course there is grace for extenuating circumstances (we can’t do anything about sickness or weather for instance).  But when they tell me they were late because they had to stop at Tim Hortons for coffee on their way and the line up was really long, I can’t help but wonder why I matter so little and why my time is of no value to them.  This type of lateness isn’t an excuse but rather a lack of respect for the other person.  It makes me sad especially since I know they’ve probably given it no thought at all.

Of course the desire to change has to be there and I can’t do anything about that if it isn’t but you probably wouldn’t still be reading this post if you weren’t a little bit curious :)  So here is my top 5 strategies for being on time and making punctuality possible. This also might just be the longest post I’ve ever written :)

1. Count Time Backwards:

Start with the time you need to be out the door and continue to subtract time for each individual activity that needs to be done before you can actually leave the house.  Back it all the way up so you know what time you need to wake up. But here’s the kicker, you have to be honest about how much time each activity is going to take you, not the time you “hope” it will take.  For instance if you hope to have your hair and makeup done in 30 minutes but history shows that it inevitably always takes 60, then it is best to factor in the extra time.  Here’s an example:

9:00 am meeting
8:40 am leave house as it takes 5 minutes to get there
8:30 am gather purse and other necessary items
8:25 am brush teeth
8:00 am breakfast
7:30 am hair and makeup
7:00 am shower and dress
6:45 am wake up

Notice there isn’t time allotted for checking email and Facebook.  So if you know that is something you like to do every morning factor it in.  Of course the above example would look entirely different too if you have kids.  As you know there is much to factor in when kids are involved.

Most people make the mistake of just not calculating properly how long each activity will take and allocating the correct amount of time.  If in doubt always err on the side of time generosity.  The more things you factor in the less stress you will experience when trying to get out the door.  Since I’m a hit the snooze button twice type of girl, I even factor in time to do this because I absolutely hate jumping out of bed the minute my alarm goes off.  Knowing this and being honest with my self about this habit of mine, I set my alarm 20 minutes earlier to allow for the slow wake up I desire.  Trust me, it works!

2. Allow for Buffer Time:

You may have noticed in my above example that I’ve allowed for some buffer time.  What is buffer time you ask?  Well let’s just say it’s always best to assume Murphy’s Law.  If something can go wrong, it most likely will.  For instance, in my example, I allowed 20 minutes to get to the meeting even though it’s only 5 minutes away.  That is buffer time.  Maybe you forget something and have to go back in the house to grab it or you spill coffee down your shirt getting into the car and need to change.  These things happen, especially and most certainly if you have kids.  Expect  it, life likes to through us curve balls.  And I know there are things in our lives that we can’t control, like sickness, weather, car trouble and traffic, for instance, but this is where having a buffer will ease some of the tension you feel day in and day out.  Allocating buffer time will save you so much stress in the long run.  Yes it might mean you end up early to your event on days where no disasters occur but that is okay.  It’s not the end of the world to be early as you’ll have time to decompress and relax for a minute.

3. Prep & Plan the Night Before:

I know you’ve heard this one a million times before but that’s because it works.  I’ve posted it more times than I can count the importance of doing a 10 to 15 minute tidy every nightTaking this little bit of time each night before bed will set up your next day for success. Plug in cell phones, check and update your calendar, make a to-do list, tidy surfaces, make lunches, pick out your clothes or whatever it is that needs to be done in order to start the following day on the right foot and buy you more time. It really does make a world of difference!

4. Simplify & Streamline:

Pay attention to the factors that consistently play into making you late, rushed and/or stressed out. You might be surprised to see that they are often the same things day in and day out.  For instance, I’ve read studies that indicate that people spend upwards of 55 minutes a day looking for things.  Yikes.  If you are late getting out the door each day because you can’t find your keys, stop the crazy and do something about it.  If you have a “home” for often lost items and you get in the habit of constantly putting them there, you will never have to search for them again.  Also think of ways you can streamline processes to get you out the door on time.  I remember when my kids were little I would sometimes forget to restock the diaper at night and wouldn’t remember until I was out the door and on the way to the daycare.  Rather than have to turn around and go back each time and risk being late for work, I started keeping extra supplies of diapers and a change of clothes for the kids in the van.  Instead of beating myself up about forgetting I just revamped my system to work for me.  Sometimes little tweaks like these is all it takes.

5. Get Your Kids Involved:

Kids are capable of so much more than we often allow them to do and by getting them involved we can free up some valuable time and teach important life skills at the same time.  Yes it takes work and training on our part but I promise you that doing this consistently eventually pays off big time.  Some of the things that have worked for me include having a family calendar on the fridge.  My youngest son from the time he could read loved looking at the calendar every morning to see what was going on for the day.  He’d come running to remind me of appointments or birthdays or events going on.  It was so cute and helped keep me on track of the little things I might forget.  It also kept him from asking me every half hour what was coming next :)

My kids were all taught from at least 5 years old how to make their own breakfasts and lunch.  The older ones would assist the youngest with his breakfast when he was small but now at 8 he is fully capable of fixing toast, oatmeal and even eggs in the microwave all on his own.  He also packs his own lunch in the mornings for school.  He packs it up and then leaves it out on the counter for me to double check before putting it in his backpack.  This way I know he’s not forgetting his fruit :)  Keep chore charts on the fridge to help the kids stay on track if need be.  The point is, everyone pitching in means more hands on deck for getting out the door on time not just in the mornings but at any time of the day.  The skills required to being on time are best learned young.  One of the most often heard phrases in my house is, if we aren’t 5 minutes early we are late!  But more importantly is teaching them about why we should strive to be on time…to think about the people waiting for us and what it means to them when we show up when we said we would.

So there you have it, whether you are late once and awhile or all the time, I hope you find these tips helpful.  Do you struggle with being on time?  What area do you struggle with the most?





Filed under: Time Management


23 Responses to 5 Simple Strategies for Being on Time

  1. 1
    Marcie Lovett says

    To me, being on time shows respect for others.

    I think people often are late because they get caught up in what they’re doing. When I have to be somewhere, I set a timer and stop what I’m doing. Trying to fit in “just one more thing” always ends badly.

    I also think that some people believe their time is more valuable than others’, but that’s a post for another day.

  2. 2
    Marei says

    My timely habits were really the worst before up until my mid-twenties.
    That changed when I spent some time abroad, in the US (I live in Europe). Let me explain:
    I live in a small town and the thing is: Around here, absolutely every place I need to be on a regular basis is really close by. For something to be called “close by” here, it must be within a travel radius from 15 minutes, 20 minutes tops. So, living here all my life I formed the (not very helpful) habit of leaving the house really shortly before I needed to arrive, say 10 minutes, more often 5 minutes before my appointment. Inevitable, I got there 5 to 10 minutes late – which nobody actually thought much of, because 5 to 10 minutes is annoying for the person waiting, but yeah.

    When I lived in the US, things were so, so different. I really needed to adapt my perception of closeness, for one thing. The “close by” radius got expanded to about an hour of travel which of course made my habit of leaving the house right before the ETA quite fatal. I am happy to report that I missed no important appointments, but was still pretty embarassed a few times, showing up late for private events and having to excuse myself for my false estimation. But I learned a great lot from these shameful experiences, and after I moved back here I was the one waiting for the other person, because these embarassments taught me to factor in contingencies and at least enough of travel time. Yay for instructional times abroad!

  3. 3
    Whitney @ Come Home For Comfort says

    Yes, yes, yes!!! Thank you for this post! I completely agree that people who are constantly late are rude and inconsiderate. I was taught that being on time for work means that you are at your station, ready to work when your shift begins….not rushing through the door, still munching on your breakfast. I would consider myself a punctual person, but only because I give myself more than enough time, plan ahead and work very hard to be early!

  4. 4
    Kaylyn says

    I greatly appreciate this article! I saw the same post on facebook, but decided not to share it. I didn’t want the arguments that you undoubtedly dealt with. I have the “early is on time, on time is late, and late is left” mentality, so I always try really hard to be early to every event. Inevitably, there are those days that everything seems to go wrong, and lateness is the theme of the day. Those are rare days, and can usually be managed by a little extra preparation. Again, thank you for taking the time to write this out!

  5. 5
    Grace says

    Thanks for this post. It’s a perfect plan for being on time. Sometimes when we have a shortcoming, it becomes very emotional. Being habitually late or having any other bad habit doesn’t automatically mean someone is doing it on purpose, but they have an emotional reaction and don’t know how to cope. Your outline takes the emotion out of it. It’s just a learning process and not a personality flaw this way.

    The Mindy Project had an episode called Caramel Princess very recently where this issue was confronted as the theme of the show. They showed in a funny way what a prideful person who makes everyone wait is like, and she learned a lesson when someone else made her wait and wait and wait all day.

  6. 6
    Leanne says

    These are such great tips. I strive to be on time for everything and it’s so frustrating when others are late.

  7. 7
    Raquel says

    Yaaaaaassssss!!! I love it. I agree. As a person without children, I am often accused of not understanding, but that’s not the point. I have a ton of things to do. We are ALL busy and we all pack as much as possible into each day. Loved the tips especially the counting time backwards.

  8. 8
    Michelle says

    One of my sons was in Civil Air Patrol during high school. It was run by retired military who instilled the mantra: “To be early is to be On Time; to be on time is to be Late; and to be late is Inexcusable.” Made an impression on him!

  9. 9
    Jan says

    I have several friends and relatives who are always late. They just laugh and shrug about it. They are not interested in being on time and would never consider that it might frustrate the rest of us. Your blog was good with great tips, but I’m afraid you were preaching to the choir here. :-)

  10. 10
    Kara says

    I agree with you but sadly, I have become the offender. After being raised by a mom who would be late to her own funeral and being surrounded by friends who were ALWAYS late, leaving me to wait by myself in awkward places one too many times (before there were cell phones to play with to pass the time), I adapted my arrival times. And have become the habitual offender. I hate it but am struggling after so many years of living that way. My husband, who doesn’t speak “late” is on a mission to repair me but it’s been hard! I am not offended at all by your post because people like me ARE annoying!

  11. 11
    The Lady Kay says

    I too agree with streamlining your basic needs to get out the door. Just a warning, I am a wee bit OCD. After having a friend who always lost their keys, I decided I never wanted to be that person, so…I installed a hook (not close to the door) where I always put my keys when I walk in the house. I have done this in every place I have ever lived. No more worrying about where I put my keys every time I go to leave the house. I’ve got my kids trained too!

    Thanks for a great post…I really don’t like being the one left waiting so I work really hard to not be the late person.

    Be Well–The Lady Kay

  12. 12
    Betsy says

    I absolutely agree with you AND the article. I don’t think you should give a second thought to anyone who defended this rude, selfish behavior. If anyone called you out…I’d reconsider that relationship. I also don’t care about offending people in this WAY overly sensitive politically correct world. Here’s the deal…people who make this a way of life ARE rude, selfish, full of themselves, disrespectful. There is no defense to bad manners.

  13. 13
    Pam Cope says

    Thanks for this. I needed a reminder. Too many times I have said “Sorry I’m Late”, when really I just didn’t plan ahead!

  14. 14
    Emma Jardine says

    I found it very difficult to reset myself after an upbringing, where Mum would fret so much about all of us, that she would end up making us late. I realised a lot of these steps by making mistakes over the years. A simple tweak to systems was one of the things I found most simple to implement when we got our first house/car and the most transformative.

    I always get a little confused at people who give themselves NO time for error on public transport. One person missed their interview because the train they were getting was cancelled (it was in the paper), the next train wasn’t for an hour and they had left it until the last train that would get them halfway across Britain. Just why?

    However, I feel like communication is key. We were ‘late’ once for a conversation with my grandparents because they have an ‘on time is late’ attitude, and she didn’t tell us a) what time we were supposed to be there until 20 mins before the time (we hadn’t packed) and b) that they had this attitude and given a litle buffer time. We were meeting in the hotel lobby, so we weren’t going anywhere really. We could have been there in good time if she’d told us, but she didn’t, so we couldn’t!

  15. 15
    Gwen says

    I’m the chronically late person and I’ve spent most of my life defending being late or making excuses for it. But the Facebook post got my attention again. I wrestled with it before but gave up with more kids in the house. I’m chronically late because I selfishly want to do just one more little thing before I leave. I need to stop and make it a priority to be early and show others that they are important. My kids and I spoke about it and we are working together to be ten minutes early everywhere. Time to turn over a new leaf. Thanks for the post!

    • 15.1
      Laura says

      Oh Gwen thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment. Thank you so much for sharing your new goal with me. I’m excited for you and your family. Please don’t beat yourself up though, you just need to learn the skill of time management and you’ll be well on your way. Keep me posted as to how you do!

  16. 16
    Marcia Francois says

    Love your post, Laura. In my organise your time course, there’s an exercise with these questions: I’m always on time for …………. and I’m always later for……………… because I’ve found that there are some things people are NEVER late for. Interviews are a good one.

    For me I’ve found when it’s with other people, like a meeting, supper date, etc. I’m never late but for myself (I’m going to gym for me), I’m often “late”.

    I put late in “” because I’ve worked flexitime my whole life so I come when I want, work til I’m done and leave when I want :)

    So it begs the question – do I not respect my own time as I do that of others?? Interesting!

  17. 17
    Rosemary says

    I grew up in a family where being on time was simply considered normal, not a burden or a problem of any kind. In a very unusual situation one year, due to I don’t remember what (not an emergency), we were quite late to my great-grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. By the time we arrived, dinner was over and we had to content ourselves with leftovers. We did not get upset or consider this unfair. It would have been unfair to expect everyone else to wait for their dinner.

    I was shocked when I found that my husband’s family would allow themselves to be held hostage by one obnoxious cousin who was always, always, always chronically late. Fifteen people would starve themselves and let the dinner get cold waiting for this woman, who would occasionally call and say she was on her way, but still not show up until two hours later. I explained to my husband that we did not deserve to be treated this way, and that the next time it happened, after a 15-minute grace period, we would either order pizza or go out to a restaurant. He agreed, and the problem was solved.

  18. 18
    Brian Mays says

    Your list can (and should) easily apply to professionals throughout their workday. I can’t tell you the number of times people are late to meetings.

    And the term “fashionably late.” Who coined that? How absurd :-)

  19. 19
    Valerie says

    I just stumbled across your blog and I wanted to leave a comment on this post. Actually, a plea for grace. :) I am almost always late to things. And I hate it! I want the people around me to know that I take them seriously and appreciate their time. But, as an adult with ADD, estimating how long something takes is not easy for me (not to mention the distractions!). I’m not using this as an excuse but an explanation. But I do try. It is something that I am working on and an encouraging friend goes a long way. Please offer grace to your family and friends that are honestly trying. They are not trying to make life harder for you or to waste your time. And if you want more info on how to encourage (or understand) your loved ones with ADD, I suggest reading “Organizing Solutions for People With ADHD” by Susan C. Pinsky.

  20. 20
    Caitlin Johnson says

    Ah this is so helpful!! I’m that person that’s always a few minutes late. I’d never show up more than five minutes late bt I know it’s still an issue I should work on

  21. 21
    Jen says

    This is my first visit to your blog, but I will assume you don’t shame people for having clutter in their closets or grocery shopping without a meal plan.

    I hope your blog is aimed at sharing your strengths, not lording them over people. So, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and share some insight: There are many, many people who try very, very hard to be on time, and are still late. They have lost jobs, lost relationships, and paid natural consequences in many other ways. They ask support groups for strategies, read self help books, set alarms, spend a fortune on planners… and still arrive late. I never hear them say they shouldn’t have to be on time. I hear them ask in desperation for strategies that will work for them.

    Research “time blindness.” Now imagine, if you were in school, and assigned to do a book report with a classmate who has dyslexia, and she was struggling… would you roll your eyes and say “I don’t have a magical tiara telling me what the book is about! I worked my butt off and read it!” Would you make sure your partner knows how inconvenient her symptoms are to you, and in case she isn’t already ashamed, tell her she’s rude and inconsiderate?

    Consider your audience. Who reads a blog about how to be on time?
    People who are always on time? (Based on some of the self righteous comments above, perhaps)
    People who are always late but don’t care at all because they are simply rude and disrespectful? (Probably not)
    Or people who truly struggle, want to improve, and came here for help?
    How does this post treat someone seeking help?
    You seem like a sweet person who wants to help other women; I’m trying to open your eyes to an issue you may not fully understand, so you don’t accidentally hurt the people you’re trying to help.

    • 21.1
      Laura Wittmann says

      Thank you Jen for your thoughtful comment and giving me the benefit of the doubt. This post is definitely one of my more direct ones that is for sure, but it came as a result of many friends over the years saying to me “oh it must be so nice to be organized and on time for everything, I wish I could be that way”. They almost always say this to me as they walking into an event late (where there is coffee being served), carrying a Tim Hortons coffee cup. It happens over and over again. It was to that audience that I mostly direct this post (and I do hope my strategies are of some help to them), not to someone who genuinely has a reason for being late. I totally understand that there are many things in life we absolutely can’t control and we all need to definitely have much grace in those types of situations. I really appreciate your insight and thank you so much for stopping by.


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