How you manage and spend your time shows what you value in life. While the reality is that our time is limited and one of our most valuable resources, most people fail to manage it properly.
They spend endless hours on meaningless responsibilities and end up being late to most of their appointments. And as William Irvine once stated: “People are unhappy in large part because they are confused about what is valuable.”
If you don’t know what’s valuable, you won’t be able to prioritize it. And that’s why most people are late to most of their appointments.
Being punctual shows that you value your time, but also the time of those around you. And even though life isn’t always predictable, we can give our best to be well-prepared despite unexpected situations.
People who’re always late often struggle to manage different areas of their lives. And although punctuality is partly related to the environment we grew up in, we all have the possibility to change our habits and systems.
Being on time will help you be more respected, less stressed, and more confident. If you can’t even make it on time for a meeting, how should people trust you and believe that you’ll be able to keep other promises?
Punctual people operate on 80%
People who’re always on time plan for trouble. They know that shit might happen and that unexpected situations might occur. That’s why they leave empty space in their calendars.
Instead of filling their entire schedule with big ambitions, they make time for troubles and only load a maximum of 80% of their daily schedule.
The remaining 20% are left empty for unexpected situations, creative think, or for doing nothing.
However, this doesn’t mean that punctual people do less or are lazy. In fact, it’s the contrary: It means that they know their limitations and plan their days accordingly.
This includes proper planning and being aware of the activities and tasks that consume most of your time.
In fact, being on time is mostly a matter of being well-structured and organized. If you don’t know how long specific tasks take, you won’t be able to create a schedule that includes pauses and downtimes.
So next time you’re creating your weekly schedule, make sure to leave some empty space so that you have room for emergencies or some downtime.
They are aware of their losses
Sometimes, being aware of what we might lose helps us be more disciplined and structured. As Kevin Kruse states in 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management:
“If there is no consequence for being late, then there’s no incentive to change your ways.”
In short: If you know what you might lose by being late, you’ll be more careful about being punctual.
Some of these losses are:
- You might miss opportunities: Quite often, the most exciting conversations happen before a formal event starts. By being late, you might miss them and fail to connect with interesting people because of a negative first impression.
- You might damage your reputation: According to a study by Jobs.ie, 46% of employees feel resentful towards colleagues who’re often late. We’re all busy and by being late, you show that you don’t care much about the time of your fellows.
- You might fail to be your best self: We can’t perform at our best when we’re stressed. Being late is a mental burden and causes lots of unnecessary pressure on your mind and body.
Keep in mind that these are just some of the many potential downsides of tardiness. By being well-prepared and punctual, you can bypass these losses and create a better life and career.
They’re not over-optimistic in their planning
Punctual people have a realistic overview of how much time their daily routines take.
People who’re always late, on the contrary, tend to be too optimistic in their daily planning. And most of the time, the problem is that they don’t know how long certain activities take them.
As Bill Gates once stated:
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
Similarly, most of us also overestimate how much we can get done in a single day. On a daily scale, it’s better to aim for less and get everything done with ease rather than being late and overly stressed all the time.
If you fail to be on time, start tracking your daily activities and get a realistic overview of how long specific tasks take you.
Dressing up, doing your hair, having breakfast, setting up your computer before a Zoom call, preparing a cup of coffee before leaving for a meeting,… these are all things we tend to underestimate.
I often found myself running late because of the cup of coffee I wanted to take with me. I mostly thought, “It’s just one additional minute; all I need to do is press the button on the coffee machine.” but that’s not true and in most cases, I ran late.
Scheduling some slack time and taking a few more minutes to do all these things without rushing through your day will help you be more punctual and relaxed.
They don’t fall for the “just-one-more-thing-trap”
Most of the time, delays are caused by a domino effect and you’re late because your previous appointment or task took longer than expected.
That’s why saying no and stopping on time are must-haves in order to be a punctual person.
Instead of trying to check one last email or do one last phone call before leaving for an appointment, set specific deadlines.
If you want to be on time, you’ll need to learn how to say stop to yourself. There’s no point in reading one more email if it’s going to cause you to be stressed and exhausted for the rest of the day.
Additionally, that one email might be a negative one and influence your next meeting or activity. So make sure you do one thing at a time and don’t squeeze those important tasks into your schedule.
It’s better to spend ten minutes doing nothing instead of reading one more email and rushing through the rest of your day.
To make sure I don’t fall for the “one-more-thing-trap”, I set alarms that remind me of the time I need to stop certain activities and get ready for my appointments.
Due to the pandemic, most of my appointments take place via Zoom, so I decided to stop whatever I’ve been doing at least 15 minutes before the meeting.
By doing so, I ensure that I have enough time to grab a glass of water, prepare for the meeting, and fix my setup in case my camera or microphone doesn’t work.
They are in love with downtimes
A lot of people are late because they prefer it over being too early. In fact, most people even feel uncomfortable being in a restaurant or cafe first and waiting alone.
But here’s the truth: If done correctly, these downtimes can be your greatest asset for creating a more relaxed and mindful life.
Being early to an appointment and allowing yourself to wait can help you relax, collect your thoughts, and be ready for the meeting ahead.
Another way to use these downtimes is by carrying a book or e-reader wherever you go.
That way, you can fill these spare times with reading and heavily increase the number of books you consume. Alternatively, you can also listen to audiobooks or podcasts.
Instead of trying to be on time, aim to be early and use those spare minutes to your advantage.
Although we can’t always manage all areas of our lives perfectly, we can avoid most delays and give our best to be on time. By doing so, we show respect for ourselves but also those around us.
And even though many experts and studies claim that lateness is hard to understand and overcome, keep in mind that it’s all about progress, not perfection.
You don’t have to change your personality or life at the touch of a button. Yet, you can indeed aim to make small improvements to be more punctual and send fewer messages to your friends saying, “Hey, I’ll be 10 minutes late!”.
Let’s be honest: Sending a text message to inform someone that you’re late doesn’t really solve the problem.
What’s much more powerful is giving your best to be on time and showing the people around you that you genuinely care about their time.