How to stop being perpetually late

I grew up in a family that was perpetually late. To everything. All the time. And while I’m by no means perfect, I’ve gone to great lengths to ensure as an adult that I’m no longer falling into those same bad habits.

Being perpetually late is not only a bad look, it’s also unnecessarily stressful. I can almost feel the cold sweat I used to experience when I’d be speeding in my car to a meeting, cursing the fact that there was no convenient parking, and running in looking like a hot mess. It’s not a good look, and it’s not a great feeling, either.

This topic recently came up in the Bossed Up Courage Community on Facebook – a safe space online where our community asks for and shares support for job-seekers, career changers, and women who want to level up in work and life. So many folks weighed in and got me thinking about the strategies that helped me stop being perpetually late and get my sh*t together when it comes to being on time like a boss.

Here’s how to stop being late all the time:

Start today and these habits can help you become an early bird in no time.

1. Focus on Leave Time, Not Arrival Time

When I used to be late all the time, part of the issue was that I’d focus solely on when I’d need to arrive somewhere. “I need to be downtown by 4pm,” I’d say to myself. So when I’d notice 3:30 pm sneak up on me, I’d think, “Ok, I have another half hour before I need to be there.”

That focus on arrival time will seriously trip you up. It makes you discount the time it takes to get from point A to point B. It caused me to leave way later than I needed to.

The better approach is to focus on your leave time instead. Now when I have a 7:45 am yoga class to get to, I wake up thinking, “I need to leave here at 7:30 am at the absolute latest.” That way I’m focused on when I need to get out the door, not when I need to get there.

It takes your mental planning one tiny step further by forcing you to estimate your travel time and decide proactively when you’ll need to leave in order to account for it. That simple shift has been a total game-changer for me. I’d love to hear if it works for you, too.

2. Put Your Commute in Your Calendar

On a related note, I’ve found putting travel time on my calendar is especially helpful when I’m planning to have meeting-heavy or travel-heavy days, too. I spend a lot of time on the road as a keynote speaker, and when you’re the featured guest, your number-one job is to get there and get there on time, no matter what.

So when I need to factor in arriving at an airport, taking a car to the location, and having meetings or phone calls to make on top of arriving prepared to deliver a keynote or workshop for women in the workplace, my calendar is key for keeping me on time.

I actually keep a separate color-coded Google calendar just for travel that layers on top of the rest of my events in my Google calendar. That’s where I keep track of all my flights, drive time, and public transit commute time, too. It’s especially helpful when I’m traveling through time zones, which can be super confusing. Plus, seeing time plotted out spatially on a calendar enables me to get out of the bad habit that I call “aspirational planning,” in the Bossed Up Book and instead focus on what’s actually possible.

3. Embrace the Buffer

As a productivity geek, I’m constantly searching for new ways to increase my efficiency. But what that meant is I used to cram in work right up until the moment I had to leave for an event or meeting. I used to consider an early arrival a “waste of time,” and therefore had every incentive to leave at the last possible moment.

Now, I’ve completely flipped the script on that concept. I now look forward to arriving early and use those precious few minutes before flights or meetings to tackle work on the go by busting out my phone or laptop for a few minutes before each meeting. When you can embrace this buffer time for the pockets of productivity it offers, you’re less likely to see it as time wasted, and incentivize yourself to get there early so you can really make the most of it.

4. Quit Aspirational Planning

One of the reasons behind perpetual tardiness is that we often plan aspirationally instead of realistically. I talk a lot about this in the Bossed Up LifeTracker Planner, a tool designed to help you focus on the goals that are most important to you.

I tend to underestimate how long it will take me to finish any given task, whether it’s writing this blog post or brushing my teeth. The idea that I can take the dog for a walk, wash my face, and get dressed for the day in 5 minutes is an example of aspirational planning that I fall victim to all the time!

So what can we do to get out of this bad habit? Start over-estimating instead! Reduce your own inner expectations of what’s possible in any given day, hour, or minute, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your productivity instead of feeling chronically behind.

This article originally appeared on BossedUp.