Ever wonder how it is that people who seem perfectly reasonable, intelligent and otherwise considerate somehow never learn to be on time? It's as if they're in a state of perpetual bafflement when it comes to their tardiness. How is this possible, you wonder, when they're chronically late for every engagement in their lives? Well take it from me, a person for whom punctuality had always been an elusive beast - it is possible for lateness to be a constant, unpleasant surprise for someone, and there are ways to break the habit.
- Time management. Many people run late because they suddenly realize, in a mad rush, that there are so many things that must be done before they can leave. Which tasks or activities prevent you from being on time? Which tasks or activities can you defer to a later time, and which can you tackle at an earlier time? Consider, for example, what you commonly do before leaving for work in the morning. You have to pick out what you'll wear and then grab it out of the dryer, brush your hair and teeth, cut up some fruit for breakfast, get the cookbooks back in their proper place and organized the way you like them, etc.
Within that list, there are activities you could've done the night before (take clothing out of the dryer, decide what to wear to work, and even cut up some fruit), things you must do in the morning (brush you hair and teeth) and, finally, things you can wait to do until you get home from work later (organizing cookbooks).
- Where did the time go? Do you drift off into your own thoughts, get lost in a magazine article or get sucked into a mindless TV show, only to ultimately realize that you should've been showering, getting dressed, preparing thoughts or doing some other vital preparatory activity so you could be on time? You thought there was going to be enough time to relax before getting ready, but it turns out you were wrong again. And guess what? You're surprised... again. Do the important things first! When you're all ready to leave, then you can see how much spare time there is to watch that Star Trek rerun.
- Predicting commute time. Make the effort to observe the average duration of your commute. If your route is unfamiliar, give yourself extra time than what your mind tells you is sufficient. Watch the weather and traffic reports.
- Aim to be early. Beneath all of the bafflement and lack of progress is a genuinely different perception of time itself. Ask a friend to tell you the time without looking at a watch. If you've got a problem being punctual, I bet her estimation is more accurate than yours.
So you're constant goal is to be on time, and yet you're constantly late? Well, you could wonder about the root cause until the sun falls from the sky, or you could just make a simple adjustment. It's like a bowler whose ball consistently ends up in the right gutter immediately before reaching the pins; by shifting position to the left, this bowler might be able to turn that gutter-ball into a consistent strike. If you're aiming to be on time, but always end up late, then aim to be early. Consistent punctuality might be the happy result of your adjustment.
- Make punctuality a priority. As much as I told myself and others that I could never figure out why I was late all the time, I ultimately came to terms with perhaps the most fundamental reason for my tardiness: I hadn't made punctuality a priority. My de-emphasis had become a handicap. And yet I knew that, to many important people in my life, the tardiness conveyed a lack of consideration for them and their time. Everyone else manages to be on time most of the time, right? They do so by making the effort to plan ahead, manage their time, consider commute factors like weather, and examine their own personal time-wasting propensities. You can do all this, too. The important people in your life are waiting for you to do it.
Maybe you're on time for every important business and social function in your life, but if you've read this far, my guess is that you're more like I've always been - your intentions are good, and yet, to your surprise, you never seem to achieve punctuality. But don't resign yourself to a future of constant tardiness. By replacing bad habits with good habits, you can become that punctual friend, coworker and family member you've always wanted to be.