I am a chronically tardy person. Yes, I am that friend. The one you’re always waiting on. The one who always has an excuse. The one that you have to tell the movie is at 6, even though it really doesn’t start until 7. I am that friend that probably makes you wonder why you invite me to do things.
Let’s face it, punctuality can be a real struggle. Especially when you have kids (perfect example here). I look back and laugh at how late I was all the time as a single person. Now that I have kids, you can imagine how much worse it is now. However, being on time is really important to me these days and I have gathered together some important points about being punctual that I am striving to implement this year. Maybe you’ll want to try them too. Unless you’re a rockstar mom who always gets there on time with all kids in tow. If that’s the case, maybe you should be the one writing this post 😉
Here are 11 habits that will make sure you’re always on time and transform you into the punctual person you’ve always wanted to be.
Change your attitude
1. Take responsibility
The first step to changing your chronically tardy self is to be honest about it. For a long time I was really good about making excuses. Some were legit and others were not. This really stressed me out because I don’t like to tell lies, not even white lies. But I didn’t want people to think they weren’t a priority to me and so I would throw out some story about how the baby blew up his diaper as we were heading out the door and I had to change his clothes. First step in changing your attitude is to take responsibility for the times you are late. Even if it’s a traffic jam, admit you didn’t allow extra time for it like you should have. This kind of accountability stings and it will help motivate you to avoid being late at all.
2. Make it a priority
If you’re going to be on time, it’s going to have to be a priority. Tell yourself that when it’s time to be out the door, you are leaving no matter what isn’t quite done or ready. If that means your hair is half curled, too bad. If your kids’ shoes don’t match, too bad. If you can’t find your phone, too bad. We’ll talk about how to avoid these problems in a minute, but if the reality is one of these kinds of problems or being late, choose to be on time.
3. Notice the benefits
I have a sister who is always on time. I totally admire this about her. When we do things as a family, we rarely ever have to wait on her. We can almost always count on her being on time. She is dependable in her job and people respect her for that. Not only that, she never seems to be in a rush. On the other hand, I am constantly scrambling and still end up being late. The reality is, being on time eliminates so much stress in our lives. When we are chronically late to things, it can take a toll on our stress level. Make a habit out of being on time and you can get rid of that over-rushed feeling you constantly have.
4. Get rid of the fear of being early
My senior year of high school my friend and I aided in the office first hour and I don’t think we were on time more than 3 times the entire year. At one point, one of the secretaries mentioned, nonchalantly, that her father-in-law always said, “I’d rather be an hour early than 5 minutes late.” To which my friend replied, “Why would you want to waste an entire hour of your life being early?”
I have to fight myself to not agree with that statement. I always try to get as much done as I possibly can and I think that has been a major contributor to my tardiness. I would rather do something with the time I might just be sitting and waiting. So I came up with this: Always have something on hand that you can do while you wait. I love having ebooks on my phone so that I always have something to read while I wait. If you have kids, keep a coloring book and crayons in your diaper bag or the car to keep them entertained if you happen to have extra time before an appointment or event. Weigh your options, would you really rather run the risk of being late than having to wait a few minutes for being early? I doubt it.
Don’t underestimate how long it takes to do something
5. Time yourself
Don’t underestimate how long it takes you to get ready, get your kids ready, or load up your car. There are certain apps out there to help you track how long it takes you to do certain things and record that for future reference. I use Time Journal for the iPhone. Or you could just use a timer. If you think it only takes you 10 minutes to shower, you may be forgetting about the time you use before and after you’re actually under the water. Set a timer and remember or record that for future reference.
6. Time your trip
If you usually go to the same places most days (IE school or work) time your trip in the car or bus. If you’re going somewhere you don’t normally go, check your maps app to see the estimated time for the trip. Check traffic and even the weather to time your trip accordingly. Don’t rely on your own estimations until you’re super familiar with the route. And in that case, be honest, not optimistic about how long it will take.
7. Allow 15 minutes extra
We all know there is bound to be a few interruptions along the way and we need to account for those. Most days, you’ll probably use up those extra 15 minutes without even noticing it’s happening. In the rare occasion you arrive 15 minutes early, don’t be afraid. Grab your book and savor those extra minutes.
Prepare ahead of time
8. Set everything out
The night before, or before you begin to get ready to leave somewhere, set everything out. Set your clothes out, any other items you may need for the day, and make sure your phone, wallet, and keys are by the door. Have your kids put everything they need in their backpacks, set them by the door, and set their clothes out too. This will eliminate the last minute scrambling to pack bags and find keys and missing shoes.
9. Get to bed on time
Establish a nighttime routine that includes setting things out and getting to bed on time. We all know how important rest is and how much easier it is to get out of bed when your alarm goes off if you’re properly rested.
10. Get up on time
Don’t you dare hit that snooze button! If you time your morning and you have to get up at 6 to make it on time, you haven’t accounted for those extra 10 minutes in bed. If you think you’ll be clever and set your alarm 10 minutes earlier so you technically can hit the snooze button and still get up on time, think again. Getting up when our alarm goes off sets the entire tone for our day. If you choose to hit the snooze button instead of getting up it’s like saying to yourself, “I know I committed to getting up at 6 but I don’t take commitments seriously, so I’m going to sleep a little longer.” How do you think that affects the rest of your daily commitments? Really, think about it. This could be one of those keystone habits that when you make it a habit, it improves all areas of your life.
11. Do the most important things first
If it is really important to you to be primped and perfect before leaving the house, allow enough time for that and make sure it’s the first thing you do. If it’s more important to you to leave your house clean, allow enough time for that and make sure it gets done first. Figure out your priorities and take care of those first. By doing that, you will never feel like your goal to be punctual interferes with what’s most important to you. Even if problems arise and you have to leave something undone, the first thing you do will already be done and the less important things can be skipped.
I don’t want to be embarrassed anymore by being that family that walks into church late and disrupts whatever is going on. I don’t want to be constantly scrambling to get out the door and screaming at my kids to hurry. I don’t want to burn with shame when I call the doctor’s office to tell them I’m running late because…well who knows what I’ll come up with. Can you imagine what life would be like if you arrived somewhere with a few minutes to spare? It’s such a rare occasion for me that it’s hard to imagine what it would feel like if that was my new norm. I’m willing to make these changes, are you?
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Let me know in the comments below, I’m curious, are you punctual? How do you do it? If you’re not, what do you think is the most important change for you to make right now?