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Leadership Now

7 Ways To Finally Stop Being Late For Everything

Chronically tardy, flagrantly non-punctual, or just lazily never on time? Read this before it's too late!

[Image: Flickr user Susan Sermoneta]

"The trouble with being punctual," so goes the saying, "is that there's no one there to appreciate it."

Yet if you have a meeting with your boss, a coffee date, or a job interview, you know they'll appreciate it. Still, it's easy to fall afoul of the tyranny of the clock: between our endlessly distracted minds and distraction-rich devices, we can fall into a pit clicksand—and soon need to scurry out the door.

Keeping appointments can be a bitch, even in Antarctica.

Thankfully, a range of professional organizers and time consultants have detangled the many reasons we're late. Here are a few ways to address them.

1) Do a walkthrough

Oh, so you think that your friendly neighborhood cafe is just eight minutes away, but is it really? Order expert Rashelle Isip says to do "walkthrough" to find out just how long it'll take to get from your office to latte land. Because if you're meeting someone for coffee—and trying to score some nonsleazy networking points—punctuality is a form of graciousness.

2) Schedule "stop working" time

It'll take a moment (or eight) to unplug from your task at hand—you'll have chat windows to close, autoresponders to set, bathrooms to use. So allow for some buffer time.

3) Wholly prepare for the whole appointment

Okay, so you might be able to get your physical body to the place on time, but will you have the preparation? Similar to doing your due diligence before hopping on a phone call, any professional meeting requires homework: what does this person do? Why are you meeting? What are the outcomes you're looking for? And if you haven't met them before, what does this person even look like?

If we don't get that prep done before the meeting, we could be walking down the sidewalk (or, worse, driving) while looking up their vital stats on our phones—an extremely unproductive form of procrastination. So let's avoid that.

Once you get to said café, follow the rules for excellent coffee meetings.

4) Avoid the time-suck

If you have 15 minutes before a meeting, don't dissolve yourself into a super absorbing task, Isip says; those are much better suited to your work in the cave. Instead, do "shallow" work, like answering a few email or catching up your news.

5) Expect things to go wrong

Traffic gets screwy, especially in Mexico City or Moscow. Trains get late, especially in Brooklyn. So if you're planning around everything going right, you're getting yourself late.

6) Avoid "One More Task Syndrome"

We're all obsessed with productivity—sometimes it gets a little weird. And sometimes it makes us late.

"I think this is a technical fix for a psychologically driven behavior," says organization expert Julie Morgenstern. "You feel you have to be productive, so you shove one more thing in before you have to leave."

This can take insidious forms: you fuss with your desk, open your mail, gobble up an emergency Snickers bar. And surprise: you're late again.

7) Embrace the early

If being early feels like a waste of time, you may have jerk-like time tendencies. Instead, come prepared for the pause: bring a book or something to work on. Or just closely observe the world around you—since that's the foundation of creativity.

Hat tip: Time Management Ninja