Why You’re Always Late

Are you chronologically challenged? Do your suffer from punctuality compunction? Then read on.

Why You’re Always Late

Since Google has yet to make news of its miracle time machine public, we’ll have to learn to make do with the measly real-time time we’ve got now (full disclosure: that’s a joke). So let us benefit from the insights from “time coach” and author Elizabeth Grace Saunders.


As Saunders writes for Lifehacker, we can learn to become more punctual–but only if we consider the underlying reasons for our constant lateness.

You expect everything to go perfectly.
If you think that everything in your life is going to go just as you planned it in your head, you are probably mistaken. Like Saunders says, if you’re laying out your itenarary with prerequisites like “If I hit every green light” or “If the train comes right on time,” you’re leaving little margin for error. It’s like living in a fantasy world, and not a good-natured, hobbit-filled one.

In real life–and in Middle-Earth–trains run late, accidents slow traffic, and you might have to take a last-minute phone call. The key, then, is to give yourself some wiggle room, because the world won’t. “Timeliness has less to do with absolute precision in estimates,” Saunders writes, “and more to do with margin.”

Being early feels like a waste of time.
Saunders writes that if you feel this way, you prioritize the value you can “extract from each minute”–though we might contend that you’re just being self-centered. It’s a silly to think that if you show up 10 minutes early to a meeting you’ll have nothing to do–downtime, gah!–especially since that smartphone gnawing at your pocket enables you to triage your emails or send Snapchats or whatever the kids are doing these days. More importantly, like your old man said, your word is your bond–don’t break it just because you fear a modicum of idleness.

You’re cracked by the last-minute scramble.
You’re about to breeze out the door when–uh oh–you don’t know where your keys are, you don’t know where you’re going, and you forgot your umbrella. Somebody could be better prepared: you.

But how? Saunders says that you should put your keys on a key ring and pack your lunch, that way you can grab them and go. As well, looking up directions and weather the day before lends the day-of less in the way of worry–a gentle, efficient way to take care of yourself.


About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.