All in good time

There is always one person in every group of friends who is known for being late

They never turn up at the allocated hour for a night out or special event and there’s a good chance that when they do eventually appear, they’ll be breathless, flustered and full of flimsy excuses for their belated arrival. At work there’s often someone similar, the colleague who’s unable to finish a project on time and meet a deadline, who doesn’t seem (rightly or wrongly) to pull their weight and is rarely given projects of any importance for fear of them letting the team down.

Does this person sound familiar? Is it a certain someone close to home? You? If you struggle to be punctual, then now is as good a time as any to try to change your ways.

On schedule

Many people may not consider lateness to be that big an issue, but think of anyone you know who is punctual and meticulous about being on time. It is the friend who regularly arrives at a meet-up point with 10 minutes to spare, or the workmate who consistently hands in a research document a day early. They are people who are reliable and dependable.

A punctual person rarely disappoints. Instead they are predictable, considered a pillar of strength with a firm grip on their life. They successfully manage and organise their days, being realistic about how long things take and making sure they leave some room for error. They seem unfazed when things go a little awry (bad weather, transport issues) because they have factored some wiggle room into their plans. They set an agenda and make it their goal to stick to it.

Time and time again, they achieve what they set out to do, so it builds their self-confidence and highlights their respect for others. Identify that punctual friend or colleague, and you will see that they create a lasting impression – for all the right reasons.

Late again

Of course, trains can be delayed, road closures may involve a detour, a faulty printer will hinder a work campaign; there’s often a valid reason for lateness. However, bad habits are hard to hide and if you routinely deal with things at the 11th hour, others will notice. They may start to take objection too, as your tardiness could be interpreted as selfishness or a lack of respect, inferring that you have got something better and more important to do.

However, unjust the assessment of them, people who are unpunctual convey a couldn’t-care-less attitude and they may be seen as someone who is inconsiderate and who lacks respect. Good friends may not choose to fall out over the matter, but appreciate that if someone is waiting outside a cinema for you and you don’t turn up in time for the start of the film, it can appear selfish. You are messing up their plans and sabotaging a night they’ve been looking forward to. Small wonder you are greeted with an incensed ‘Where on earth have you been?’ when you finally arrive on the scene.

Friends will often be forgiving, however you won’t make a good first impression at a job interview or crucial business meeting if you’re running late, and a GP can’t just wait around for you to attend an appointment. In these instances, it’s likely you are the one who really loses out.

Being constantly late also puts you under a lot of unnecessary stress, and it can take its toll if it happens frequently enough. If you miss a flight at the airport, a holiday might be ruined. If you arrive at the theatre and the performance has started, you may not be allowed to take your seat. You have wasted money, lost respect and no doubt your lateness will put a strain on relationships too.

What’s the solution? How can you turn around your timekeeping?

1. Don’t overload yourself…

Sometimes punctuality is all down to the fact you have got too much to do. How can you be expected to meet your sister at 6pm when you’re picking up your son from soccer at 5.30pm, you’ve agreed to take two of his classmates home, and the rendezvous venue is a 30-minute car ride away? If you know you are going to be pushed for time, be wary of what you agree to in the first place and give whoever is expecting you plenty of notice. Then they have the option of arranging something else.

…or get distracted

Okay, you’re about to leave to meet a running partner in the park, but see you’re early for a change. Just go. Don’t make the mistake of getting distracted by a pile of unopened mail or the chance to clean the cat’s litter tray. Stay focused and force yourself out of the door.

2. Watch your time…

Those who are consistently late typically underestimate how long things will take. Close your eyes and without counting the seconds, try to guess when a minute has passed. Research by Jeff Conte, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, found that people who are punctual tend to open their eyes in 58 seconds. Their inner clock is almost spot-on, so they instinctively turn up on time, or even arrive early. Those with a tendency for lateness, however, have a more relaxed sense of time and urgency, therefore these individuals don’t respond until around 77 seconds.

…and wear a watch

If the latter is the case for you, it’s even more important that you keep an eye on the time to stay on track. This could be stating the obvious, but a watch is the ultimate handy device to aid punctuality. A quick glance at your wrist may be all you need to encourage you to get a move on, whereas it takes more effort to delve into a bag or pocket to check the time on your phone. If you are not convinced a watch will do the trick, set your mobile alarm to go off 10 to 15 minutes before you need to leave the house or office. Don’t ignore it.

3. Plan journeys

If you are going somewhere new, or even somewhere familiar, think in advance about your preferred route and the duration of the journey. And consider the time of day you’ll be at the wheel of the car. Getting from A to B may only take 15 minutes at midday, but realistically the drive will take considerably longer if you are travelling during morning or evening peak hour.

4. Ask questions

This is especially important in the workplace if you’ve been assigned a project and you are unsure of what is involved or expected of you. No one will object to you asking for clarification, especially if it prevents you from procrastinating then failing to deliver to the brief. Do it in a timely fashion, though, don’t leave it to the last minute. The same is true if a friend suggests you meet at a new restaurant in town. If you are uncertain of its address, just send them a quick text, call and ask, or search the web.

5. Avoid making excuses

Ever been laughed at and told you’ll be late for your own funeral? Just because everyone else has come to the conclusion that you never turn up on time for anything, even when it’s important you attend, don’t perpetuate the myth or fall back on the “it’s just the way I am” excuse. It may be a fair point, but prove you are committed to improving your time keeping. Then start to clock up the compliments.

Words by Lorna Cowan

This article was originally published in Breathe Issue 22, Life Unlimited - View Magazine

Enjoying our inspiring stories? Sign up to our newsletter and receive our latest editorial and offers directly in your inbox.