Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

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!

"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

[Image: Flickr user Susan Sermoneta]

Add New Comment


  • Diane Dudeck

    I also believe that being late is a choice. If it's always someone else's fault or your excuse list is dog-eared and worn, case closed. Being chronically late also sends a strong message that you believe your time is more valuable than those waiting for you.

  • vmamafrika

    You know what? Some of us truly struggle with punctuality. It's a weakness, just like perfectionism or untidiness. I've learnt that I'm often late due to my overloaded schedule. Take for instance last Friday. We set up the meeting on Thursday, and I willed myself throughout the afternoon to make sure my clothes are ironed, shoes are clean, etc. But I spent the time preparing mentally for the meeting (practising for it, listening to lessons on the subject etc), and before I knew it, it was 11pm.

    As I flew to the meeting venue, I promised that this was the last time I was going to do that to myself. Because being late hurts the person who is as much as the one who has to wait.

    Thankfully, the person I was meeting had been held up in another meeting so my five-minute lateness wasn't noticed --- and I got some time to freshen up.

    Anyway, my point is that being late isn't always a sign of disrespect.

  • Rashelle Isip

    Very true. All actions (or even non-actions) begin with a certain amount of intent.

  • Tahera Nilufar Morshed

    I always prefer to be in the place of meeting early. This give me the opportunity to get accustomed to the place and calm my nerves a bit. Professional meet ups are tiresome for introverts :(

  • Rashelle Isip

    I also like to arrive early for meetings. I'd rather have the luxury of a few more minutes on my hands to spend as I so choose, versus being pressed for time.

  • Gerry L

    Yes. Puctuality is gracious. And chronic tardiness is rude. Occasionally "things happen" to cause people to be late, but it should be the exception rather than the rule. All those tips are ingrained in people who dread being late. I sure hope those people who routinely show up late will take them to heart so those of us who show up 15 minutes early aren't stuck waiting another 15 minutes for you.

  • Rashelle Isip

    I completely agree with you. I once read a story about a woman who said she'd gladly give 15 minutes to anyone, but would wait 15 minutes for no one. Sure gets you thinking about what is important!