How to Stop Being Late All the Time

By Camille Styles

I have a problem, and there’s no getting around it: lately, I’m constantly running late. Even though I don’t think that most of my friends would describe me as an especially late person, the truth is that I’m always running slightly (5 – 10 minutes) late almost everywhere I go, and the constant rushing often leaves me feeling stressed and anxious when I get to my destination. It’s definitely become worse since Henry came on the scene, and I’ve added nursing, diaper changing and getting 2 kids dressed and ready into my routine before leaving the house. I’m feeling like it’s time to buckle down and start challenging myself to do what it takes to be on time. I read this quote by Karen Joy Fowler the other day: Arriving late is a way of saying that your own time is more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you. Yikes. If that’s not enough reason to get it together, I don’t know what is. In that spirit, I’ve been reading articles and advice from around the web to help me get a handle on my tardiness, and thought I’d share the 6 tips that have been most helpful to me… just in case I’m not the only girl out there who’s always rushing from point A to point B. Click through, and let me know in the comments any strategies that help you be on time!

* featured image: giovanna battaglia by stockholm streetstyle

1. Be realistic about how much time something really takes.

This is a tough one for me. I have a hard time stopping in the middle of a project before it’s complete, so I often find myself just rushing to finish something even if it’s taking way longer than I initially thought it would. So, if I could master the skill of calculating how long something is actually going to take (whether it’s writing an email or getting Phoebe ready for dance class), I could better gauge if I even have time to start it in the first place. A lot of the experts I read advised actually using a timer while performing daily activities for a couple days, so we could get a realistic handle on how much time we should be allowing for various tasks. When the allotted time for a given activity is almost up, we’ll know it’s time to wrap it up and move on. 

*image: garance dore

2. Plan ahead.

For a lot of people, distraction or forgetfulness — like always misplacing your car keys when it’s time to leave the house — can be a cause of frequent lateness. If this is you, a few simple organizational strategies can set you on the path to promptness.

  1. Set up reminders for yourself in your calendar, so that you can get an alert when you’re 30, 5, or 1 minute away from something you’re supposed to do.
  2. Get prepped in advance so that you’re not scrambling right when you need to leave the house. If you’re always late for work or school drop-off,  take time the night before to lay out your clothes, pack lunch and make sure necessities, like keys and sunglasses, are by the door.  This helps prevent any surprises (uh-oh, new shirt needs ironing!) from popping up at the moment you should be leaving the house.

These little habits also make for an all-around happier start to the day, since you’re not starting it in stress-mode.

*image: lo and sons

3. Resist the urge to do just one more thing. 

This is hands-down my biggest problem. I’m that person who hates feeling like they’re wasting time, so my need to check just one more thing off my to-do list is often what makes me late. That final thing I try to accomplish can definitely spin out of control and take way more time than I initially thought. Instead, I’m working on remembering that most of the time, that one extra thing can probably wait. 

The reality is, I’m not going to be able to check off everything on my to-do list before leaving my desk. Instead, I’ve been trying to look at my list as something that I can work on over the course of a week, and chances are I’ll have a free pocket of time later where I’m able to focus on the task at hand without having to rush through it to get somewhere.

*image: garance dore

4. Set up deadlines for yourself – and take them seriously.

Sometimes lateness can be solved by sheer self-discipline to keep commitments to yourself. If you’ve set your alarm for earlier than usual – go ahead and get up at the time you’ve promised, without hitting the snooze button. Procrastination – whether it’s getting out of bed, making a dreaded phone call, or going to a doctor’s appointment – only prolongs the inevitable and often leaves you stressed (and late) in the process. As a wise man once said… Just do it.

image: garance doré

5. Aim to be early.

As previously mentioned, I hate wasting time, so my normal m.o. is to plan on arriving somewhere right on the dot. The problem with this strategy is that if anything unexpected pops up (lost car keys, traffic jam, too many red lights), I end up being late. I’ve learned that people who are consistently on-time always aim to show up somewhere a little early, and then they don’t have to freak out over a delay since they’ve carved out a little breathing room in their schedule. The worst thing that can happen? You get somewhere and have 5 minutes to kill, in which case you should…

*image: madewell

6. Embrace the wait.

I’ve realized I can actually enjoy arriving somewhere early if I have something to do besides scroll mindlessly through my Instagram feed. Return phone calls, organize my calendar for the week, plan what I’m making for dinner that night… a few minutes of downtime can actually turn into some of the most productive moments of your day, and you can do them in a relaxed and unhurried way since you’re not worried about being late to your next destination. So (and I’m saying this as much to myself as anyone else): Don’t fear downtime. It seems like a paradox, but embracing the possibility of doing nothing can actually be more productive in the long term.

*image via Vestiaire