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How to Stop Being Late – Like a Pro

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Are you always late such that you’re flapping like a bird when you arrive, panting and apologetic? You’re not the only one – so here are some things you can try to avoid being so tardy.

Lateness can be interpreted by other people that they’re not important enough for you to bother being punctual (even if that’s the last thing you mean.) It sends the wrong message.

Maybe you need to be under pressure. Some people do. Being close to the wire for an appointment or deadline provides that rush – perhaps you haven’t even recognized this in yourself?

Lateness can be a habit – one that most people really wish they could break. I have a close friend who is ALWAYS late, and it can get quite annoying for some people. One late arrival can be forgiven and explained away, maybe even two, but always being late can’t be misinterpreted.

Perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that you’re terrible at planning ahead, or underestimate tasks. What could explain it?

Whatever the cause, it’s time for a step-change. So try one of these things to break the cycle (and then try the rest):

  1. Allow more time than you expect the task, or journey, to take. Start with a large margin of error – up to 50% – and then reduce this gradually as you get better at planning ahead and estimating. If you’re early, so what? Grab a coffee or read the report you’re about to discuss in the meeting – the time won’t be wasted
  2. Do you wear a watch? Perhaps obvious but a timepiece that is easily accessible – or in your face – will make it easier to avoid starting late. I have one of these Apple Watches that gives me a discreet slap on my wrist when I need to move on from what I am doing
  3. Plan your time more in smaller, more manageable chunks – break down your time into 15 or 30 minute chunks and don’t bite into the next chunk if you risk being late
  4. Bad traffic or travel delays are out of your control, but don’t just accept that you’re at the mercy of them. If you’re due to be somewhere early, then set off very early, or better still, still overnight, even if it’s sleeping on a friends sofa
  5. Be realistic about deadlines. You’ve been wrong so far, so stop repeating this mistake. Work in a margin of error or delay
  6. Don’t take the phone call if you’re moments away from your next appointment – it will only delay you
  7. Be real about your motivations – if you’re late because, really, you don’t want to do it then deal with that rather than be constantly late for something you don’t want to do
  8. If you’ve not finished one thing – but have to move onto another – consider putting down what you’re doing and come back to it later
  9. Can you reschedule? If you KNOW you’re going to be late for a regular appointment, stop pretending that you can make it and ask for it to be rescheduled (even if it’s only by 15 minutes)
  10. Be mindful about the consequences of lateness on other people – consider what they will feel and interpret by it. How important is the impression you create on them?

Want to know more?

Then watch this video

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This post is part 1 of 11 in the series Time Management

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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