Few feelings are worse than the anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with a sudden realization of, “Oh, man. I’m late.” Unfortunately, it’s a feeling we’re all well acquainted with; we’re late to meetings, to dinner, to parties, to—most dreaded of all—flights. But no longer! In this day and age, “fashionably late” can truly become a thing of the past. All you need to do is follow these 15 tricks, and you’ll never be late again—unless you want to be. And once you’ve mastered being punctual, learn the 15 tricks for tripling your productivity every day.
“It’s very hard to live life with razor thin margins,” says Shlomo Zalman Bregman, author of the upcoming book, Force of Nurture: How to Reach Your Ultimate Level of Greatness and Attain Unstoppable Results in Every Aspect of Life. “So I build in ‘time cushions’ and reverse engineer back from when I need to be somewhere.” In other words, Google Maps might tell you that it’s an hour drive to the airport. But what if traffic is rough? Or there’s a road closure? Inclement weather? A DUI checkpoint? By accounting for everything that can—and likely will—go wrong, you’ll be safely on time, all the time. And if you need ideas on what airport to wait in, try booking a flight through a port with one of the 15 Most Luxurious Airport Lounges Of All Time.
Another solution is to circumvent the travel time altogether and host any meetings or engagements at your place. “That way, you don’t have to incorporate the travel time. You just have to make sure you’re ready to meet on time—which is easier,” says Amy M. Gardner, former dean of students at the University of Chicago Law School and the co-founder of Apochromatik, an executive coaching firm.
The two-minute rule, a method pioneered by productivity guru David Allen, is astoundingly simple: If a task will take two minutes or less, do it immediately. If it will take more than two minutes, however, put it on your schedule. This trick will help you plan out your day and set calendar reminders accordingly, assuring you can be punctual to every appointment. You can read more about it in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
When it comes to planning out your day, nothing is as valuable as data—and nothing gives you data like RescueTime does. RescueTime is an app the runs in the background of your computer or phone and will, in the simplest sense, tell you how much time you’re using on each task. Maybe you spend, on average, 17 percent of your day answering emails and 4 percent of your day catching up on the news. Now, with that info in hand, you know that 79 percent of your day can be scheduled with other stuff, like meetings, actual work, lunch, and—what the heck—nap time.
Gardner swears by—in fact, she even uses this method herself—using a digital watch, like an Apple Watch or a FitBit, that can buzz you during meetings. Set a buzzer for five or ten minutes before the meeting ends, and you’ll know that it’s time to wrap it up, so you don’t keep your next appointment waiting. For an idea on what smartwatch to pick up, learn more about the Fitbit Ionic (pictured above).
Look. We get it: The smartwatch trend isn’t for everyone. Still, if you’re keeping to a tight schedule, your wrist should never be naked. “We’ve gotten away from wearing watches, because of our phones, but you don’t want to look at your phone during a meeting,” says Gardner. The easy solution is to invest in a watch—a nice one. (Why not?)
It’s a lot easier to do this with an analog watch; literally, just wind the dial forward a few minutes. If you have a 1 o’clock and look at your wrist and see that it’s 12:55, you’re going to sprint to that next meeting without a second thought. But in actuality, the time is 12:50—or 12:45—and you’re the most punctual guy in the room.
Or load up your subway card. Or put air in your bike tires. Whatever you need to do to preventatively minimize any potential bumps in the—literal—road. Nothing puts on damper on your punctuality like an unplanned trip to the gas station—or just missing the A train by a minute because you had to wait in line for the only working kiosk on a Monday morning rush hour.
“A lot of people don’t want to be early because they think they’ll be sitting around like a dolt, with nothing to do,” says Bregman. But if you always make sure there’s something to occupy your time, you won’t mind being 15 minutes early and sitting for a bit in a sterile waiting room. Sending emails, reading backlogged articles, checking the social media of whomever you’re about to meet with, shooting a quick call to grandma—there’s always something to do. Gardner suggests keeping a list handy, just in case you need a reminder that, yes, you can use your waiting time more productively.
On top of a list of things to do in the waiting room, you should keep an obsessively detailed to-do list—not just a collection of menial tasks, like “buy groceries,” says Bregman, but also big-ticket items like, “get a promotion,” or “have my book make the top-seller list.” Then, make sure every task you do in a given day loops back to that list. This will ensure you’re only booking yourself with appointments that matter to you—and, more crucially, will guard you from overbooking yourself with needless tasks and meetings, which is a surefire way to guarantee chronic and repeated tardiness.
How you start your day sets the template for how the rest of your day will go. The first opportunity you have to be punctual is the minute you wake up, so think about it like this: Getting out of bed is an appointment. If you sleep an extra five minutes, you’re five minutes late. This will put you in the mindset of being on time for the rest of the day.
“We put so much effort into how we dress for a meeting,” says Gardner. “It doesn’t matter how well-tailored your suit is, all of that is blown out of the water if you’re late.” The solution? Start thinking of being punctual, like brushing your teeth and getting dressed in the morning, as one of your “getting ready” tasks. (Be ware: You may have to forgo the cooked breakfast for a power bar or some such.)
The guy or gal who’s late to the meeting is seen as disorganized, at best, and disrespectful, at worst. But let’s face it: The truth is usually a combination of the two. “Think about it this way: How do you feel when someone shows up late to a meeting you organized?” says Gardner. Once you realize that, hey, your tardiness makes others feel similarly, you’ll be better equipped to be punctual yourself. Plus, “being on time doesn’t cost us any money,” says Gardner. “And it’s entirely within our own control.”
Who among us hasn’t been forced to say, to a stranger at the bar, “Oh, that seat’s taken,” while waiting for a date for fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes? “People view [being late] as a power move, sending the message, ‘My time is more valuable,’ ” says Gardner. “But all this accomplishes is sending an off-putting signal that you don’t value them as much.” Breaking the so-called “power-waiting” mindset is hard, but the fact of the matter is that everyone has a satellite-tied, up-to-the-minute phone nowadays; your date knows what you’re up to.
“There’s plenty of time in the day for us to do our goals, but you have to be stingy with the time,” says Bregman. If you overcommit yourself, you’re bound to be late to multiple appointments. “Life is like a buffet,” says Bregman. “You want to eat everything, but you can’t. You only have one stomach.”
Now that you’re as punctual as possible, learn The 14 Steps To Conquering Business Meetings Once And For All.
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