Being late can really hold you back professionally. No matter how good you are at your job, you’ll struggle to get ahead if you can’t seem to get anywhere on time.
The proverb the early bird catches the worm has been around for centuries, and for good reason. There is a lot to be said for getting a jump on things, especially at work.
You should try to avoid being late, at least. If you tend to struggle to make it to work, client meetings or other professional engagements on time, here are some tips for turning things around:
1. Understand why it matters
You know that you’re someone who often runs late. However, other people don’t — and might make assumptions about what your lateness means. When you show up late for an interview, or even just a lunch meeting, you send others a message. Lateness can feel like lack of interest, consideration and respect. It can also make it seem as though you’re disorganized or otherwise unreliable. That’s not the message you want to be sending.
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2. Know that you’ll feel better
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that entering a meeting late, for example, generally means that you won’t be at your best. Being late doesn’t just bother others — it rattles you. You might worry about what others are thinking, or about what you might have missed. Being late often makes you feel less on top of everything than you would otherwise. Knowing this might help you to show up on time.
3. Make it a priority
People who arrive to things on time do so because they make it a priority. They put it ahead of other things. They’ll leave an email unsent, walk away from a stimulating conversation, or wait to get a cup of coffee until after the meeting. If you want to be on time, make that goal a top priority. Be willing to start putting it above other things that aren’t as important.
4. Leave extra time
There are so many unexpected surprises in life. In order to navigate everything successfully, you need to allow a little time for unplanned events. (That is, if you’d like to show up to places on time consistently.) So, if it takes 35 minutes to drive to work, you need to leave 50 minutes before you’re supposed to arrive. If you have a dinner meeting right around the corner, you still ought to plan to leave 10 to 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be there just the same.
[Speaking of time, is it time for a raise? Take our survey and find out.]
5. Buy a fun alarm clock
There are some pretty cool alternative alarm clocks on the market these days. There are clocks that wake you up progressively, ones that make you a cup of coffee, and even ones that shock you, literally, for those extra heavy sleepers. Shop around and consider purchasing one that’s right for you. If you don’t feel like investing in something new right away, consider setting up two or three alarms on your phone before an event. Just make sure you don’t wait until the last one sounds to start getting ready.
6. Have places for things
Maybe you often run late because you can’t find the things that you need. This is a relatively common problem. A good quick fix is to establish a drop zone at home and at work. In other words, have a place where you always (and the key word here is always) leave your stuff when you come in the door. If your keys, jacket, and wallet are always in the same place, you won’t need to waste valuable time looking for them.
7. Enjoy it
One of the most important ways to solidify an early-bird habit, especially when it’s newly formed, is to enjoy the benefits of it along the way. Doesn’t it feel nice to not have your heart race as you rush around hoping to make it there on time? Isn’t it more comfortable to arrive at a meeting before it starts rather than striding in late and having to come up with excuses? Enjoy the increased feeling of calm that comes with better time management. It will help you to keep it up.
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