When it comes to time management, there are two main types of people: those who are habitually early and those who are ― despite their best intentions ― chronically late.
Most punctually challenged people chalk up their tardiness to personality, a notion that Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist, said is partly true.
“Tardiness is a function of both disposition and habits,” he told HuffPost.
While some people are naturally less attuned to the passage of time, he said, others are acutely aware of it. The environment you were raised in can also play a role in how you think about time.
“If we were raised in a home where there was an expectation of promptness, where parents were prompt, where time was structured and tracked, we are more likely to be on time and early,” he said. On the other hand, if scheduling and promptness weren’t priorities in your household, you may be less likely to strive for punctuality.
The final determining factor has to do with the consequences and reinforcements you received growing up.
“Were we praised for being on time? Did we have a lifestyle that rewarded a non-scheduled, non-deadline approach?” Klapow asked. He explained that it’s a combination of hard-wired disposition, childhood learning and reinforcement contingencies that dictate the degree to which you tend to be chronically late or perpetually punctual.
That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of constant lateness, though. Even if you’re working against your natural disposition, there are practical steps you can take to become more punctual.
Take a page out of a punctual person’s playbook and look at some of the tips below:
1. Consider The Consequences Of Being Late
Punctual people are keenly aware of the consequences of being late, Klapow said. So, before you can transform into a punctual person, it helps to examine the effect of your tardiness, he explained.
To start, grab a notebook and jot down all the consequences you’ve dealt with in the past for being late, whether practical or social. Think of things such as missing an important meeting, getting a speeding ticket, being reprimanded by your boss, disappointing your friends, or even just feeling frazzled.
Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management and founder of online learning company Leadx, underscored the exercise’s importance.
“If there is no consequence for being late, then there’s no incentive to change your ways,” Kruse told HuffPost.
Another approach is to ask your family and friends how they feel about your constant lateness, Klapow suggested. Getting this real social feedback, he explained, can help shift your understanding of how your tardiness affects the people around you, and hopefully motivate you to make changes.
2. Track Your Habits
To get a more realistic view of time, it helps to “chart your successes and failures,” Klapow said.
Use a timer to record how long various tasks in your daily routine take to complete, from showering in the morning to driving to work to walking the dog.
If you’re perpetually late, you’ll probably notice that you tend to underestimate the time you need to get things done.
Klapow said recording your habits in this way will allow you to “see just how successful you are at being on time [or] how much of a challenge it actually is.” This will give you a better idea of how you can adjust your schedule or make changes to your routine.
3. Under-Schedule Yourself
Punctual people aren’t necessarily less busy than people hardwired to show up late — they’re just more realistic about what they can accomplish. If you’re constantly late, you may be overextending yourself or overestimating your capabilities, which is why Klapow suggested dialing back.
“If possible, examine the degree of [your] tasks, deadlines, [and] requirements that are time-contingent and try to reduce some of them so that you are not overloaded,” he said.
Can you delegate better? Step away from a time-sucking responsibility? Say no to certain projects? Under-scheduling yourself will help you “get the hang of being on time so that it feels manageable,” Klapow explained.
4. Set Time Barriers For Tasks
Kruse said it’s crucial to set an end time as well as a start time for your meetings, calls and tasks.
“Often people are late because their previous engagement ran too long,” he explained. When you begin a new task, whether it’s answering emails or attending a brainstorming session, set a clear stop time. This will help you stick to your commitments and ensure you don’t lose track of time.
5. Get Organized And Plan Ahead
A major part of being on schedule is developing habits that help maximize your efficiency. That means looking up directions ahead of time or making lists of what you need to accomplish to leave on time.
If you’re always late to work because you feel rushed getting ready, for example, find ways to minimize your morning frenzy. Before you go to sleep, organize your work materials, lay out an outfit and pack your lunch.
6. Set Reminders And Alarms
“Gradually shape your world to make time more of a front-and-center concept in your life,” Klapow recommended. One way of doing that? Create reminders for yourself.
Klapow said phone alarms, sticky notes and calendar notifications can all help you stay on track and on time. Kruse also suggested setting your clocks five minutes early to trick yourself into being timely.
7. Anticipate Downtime
Part of training yourself to be on time is learning how to embrace periods of waiting. If you try to show up precisely on the dot because you dislike the idea of arriving early and having to wait, you also risk showing up late if not everything goes according to plan.
Kruse makes a point to be super early everywhere he goes, whether it’s a flight or lunch meeting.
“That way, whether there is an accident on the highway or bad traffic or I get lost, I am still never late,” he said. And when he does arrive early, he simply uses his downtime to return phone calls, process emails or read.
So long, time crunch.