Turning up late is possibly the most selfish and rude thing you could do. When you are late, you are stealing other people’s time and that is something they can never get back. Steal their money, by all means, they can get that back. Steal their time and it’s gone forever.
If you want to dramatically improve your reputation professionally and personally, pay close attention to your timekeeping. When you respect other people’s time, they will respect yours.
So why are you always late and how can you change that to always being on time?
1. Poor Calendar Management
This is the most common reason for people being late. If you allow other people to schedule meetings on your calendar, for example, you are giving away control of your most valuable asset—your time. No matter where you are on your company’s hierarchy, make sure, at the very least, you have to accept invites on your calendar before they become confirmed.
Your calendar is unique among your productivity tools in that it never lies to you. You get the same twenty-four hours everyone else does and you get to choose how you spend those hours each day.
You can add dates to tasks that are not due on those dates in your to-do list manager, you cannot do that on your calendar (well you could, but that would just be lying to yourself and what’s the point of that?) This means you can instantly see when you double-book yourself or if you don’t leave enough time between meetings. It will tell you if you have left a realistic amount of time to get from one place to another because you can see on your screen where you are supposed to be next.
A trick I use, when I am asked if I can attend a meeting on a specific day, is to always reply “let me check my calendar and I will get back to you”.
I could check my calendar from my phone and tell them immediately, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes by rushing to confirm an appointment without taking an extra few minutes to check and make sure I have enough travel time between my appointments. It also allows me time to consider whether whatever I am being asked to do is something I want to do. If it is not, then I can easily decline the invitation.
2. Learn to Say No
Time tested and still the most effective way to get control of your time and not be late for your commitments. We all tend to overcommit ourselves. We want to be nice, we do not want to hurt other people’s feelings by rejecting them. We don’t want to miss out on an opportunity—the fear that everyone else knows what’s going on and we don’t. It all builds up to make us want to say “yes” all the time.
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That is what causes us to over-commit ourselves, and then we find we are running late to all our events and commitments which does the reverse of what we want to achieve—have the respect of our peers.
When you start being much more objective about what you say “yes” to and analyzing whether you do have time to commit to what it is you are being asked to commit to and being willing to say “no” to many of these opportunities that destroy your ability to keep time effectively, then you will find that rather than being late all the time, you start to be the first to arrive.
That’s when your peers begin to respect you more. You have demonstrated you respect their time and in return, they will respect yours.
You need to know that saying no to opportunities and commitments helps everyone. If you say yes to something and are not totally committed to carrying through with that commitment, you are not only letting down your peers, you are also letting down yourself.
Get comfortable saying no. You will find it helps you a lot more than you think.
If you need a little help on how to say no, check out this article written by Leo Babauta: The Gentle Art of Saying No
3. Allow Extra Time to Get to Where You Are Going
This one has the added benefit of reducing stress. When you arrive early to your appointments and meetings, you get time to stop and reflect or catch up.
You can do the same with doctors and dental appointments too. Those few spare minutes in a waiting room are great places to do some focused work or reply to a few emails. It gives you some much-needed breathing room in an otherwise chaotic world.
4. Overcompensate on Travel Time
You never know what the traffic will be like and while we do have the technology to inform us of traffic hot spots today, a build-up of traffic can happen incredibly fast. One small accident could very easily add an extra thirty minutes to your travel time.
The secret is to allow for that. Give yourself an extra thirty minutes of travel time and you will gain the benefit the other side. I’ve often found myself with thirty-minutes in an empty meeting room to get on with my work undisturbed.
5. Never Be Afraid to Excuse Yourself from an Over-Running Meeting.
You’ll be surprised how easy it is and you help everyone else caught up in someone else’s mismanaged meeting. Another one you could do is to refuse to attend any meeting that does not have a clearly defined start and finish time and an agenda.
Of course, this can be difficult if it is your boss who is the culprit. But you need to get control here. If you are attending a meeting where you know the organizer regularly overruns their meetings and they are above you in the company’s food chain, then explain at the beginning you will have to leave at a specified time.
This has two benefits:
First, it alerts the organiser to the need to finish on time. Secondly, everyone else in the meeting will feel a great deal of gratitude towards you for increasing the chances the meeting will finish on time.
Never compromise here. You committed to being somewhere at a specific time. You checked your calendar, you knew when you made the commitment about the meeting and so, you have a duty to follow through with your commitment, part of which is being on time.
I’ve even been known to inform my dentist that I will have to leave at a certain time so I can get to a pre-scheduled appointment. This now means my dentist is always honest with me about how long a specific treatment will take, which helps me to make better judgments about how much time I will have before my next appointment.
If you have any doubts about whether you will be able to get to an appointment on time, don’t make the appointment. Or better prioritize your commitments. It’s far better to cancel an appointment in good time than to have everyone waiting for you.
We foolish think money is our most valuable asset forgetting that money can always be gained or lost. Unlike time, where once it has gone, it has gone for good and you will never get it back. When you understand this, you start to understand that you have to not only protect your own time, but you should respect the time of others too.
Arriving late for appointments—no matter who you are—is not being civilized. It is just good manners to show respect for people’s time and that starts by always arriving on time for your meetings and appointments.