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 night. Taking 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?