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12 Tips for Being Punctual – How to Be On Time


The importance of being punctual cannot be overstated.

Being on time matters; it matters a lot. However, a large number of people have a problem being punctual. In fact, surveys show that 15 to 20% of the US population is consistently late.

There are many negatives that go along with having a habit of being late. Here are a few them:

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  • Being late signals to others that you have self-control problems. In addition, people who are not punctual project incompetence.
  • Being late is rude to those whom you keep waiting. It tells others that you don’t value their time (which is the same thing as not valuing them).
  • Being late will probably make you feel flustered and insecure, and this will be reflected in the way in which you conduct yourself during any meeting or appointment that you’re late to.
  • Being chronically late can make you lose clients, it can make you lose your job, and it can strain your relationships with the people who are most important to you.

In addition, there are several different reasons why a person might have a punctuality problem. Some of these include the following:

  • Some people like the adrenaline rush that comes from cutting it close. They can’t motivate themselves to take action unless there’s a mini-crisis looming on the horizon.
  • Disorganization is one of the main reasons why people are chronically late. It’s hard to be on time when you can’t find any clean clothes to wear, you misfiled the documents that you need for your meeting, or your car keys seem to have grown legs and walked off.
  • People who are easily distracted have a tendency to be late. After all, just when they’re about to walk out the door something shiny catches their eye and distracts them long enough to make them late.
  • Those who lack conscientiousness are chronically late. Conscientiousness includes regard for others and making deliberate choices.

Regardless of the reason why you have a tendency to be late, there are things you can do to adopt the habit of being on time. Below you’ll find 12 tips for being punctual.

1. Make Being Prompt a Priority. The first step in becoming punctual is accepting that you have a punctuality problem. Then, realize that it’s not a cute or quirky character trait. Instead, it’s a habit that’s having a negative impact on your career, on your business, and/or on your relationships.

Make a commitment to drop the tardiness habit and become punctual.

2. Know Why You Want to Be Punctual. Whenever you want to create a new habit, you need to be very clear on the reasons why you want to build that habit. The more reasons you have for wanting to adopt a new habit, and the stronger those reasons are, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make the new habit stick.

Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and ask yourself what you’ll gain by overcoming your tardiness habit and adopting a habit of punctuality, instead. You can write down things like the following:

  • Being on time will help you to cut down on stress (after all, few things are as stressful as always running late).
  • Being on time will reduce friction with your co-workers; nobody likes to be kept waiting.
  • Being on time will let your boss know that you can be counted on, which could lead to a promotion.

Be very clear on the benefits that you’ll gain by being punctual, and then keep reminding yourself of those benefits in order to motivate yourself to become someone who’s prompt.

3. Track How Long Tasks Take. A lot of people who are constantly late have trouble determining how long it takes them to perform different tasks; even those tasks that they perform on a regular basis. For example, they might think that it takes them 25 minutes to get ready in the mornings, when the reality is that it takes them a lot longer than that.

If you fall into this group of people, do the following:

  • Make a list of all the tasks that you have to get done in the morning in order to get ready to leave for school or work (or wherever it is that you go in the mornings).
  • Then, spend a week tracking how long it takes you to complete each of these tasks. For example, how long does it take you to wash your face and brush your teeth? How long does it take you to take a shower? How long does it take you to get dressed? How long does it take you to fix your hair?

Once you’ve tracked how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, you may realize that it takes you 45 minutes to be ready to walk out the door, not the 25 minutes that you previously thought. If this is the case, accept that you need to start getting out of bed 20 minutes earlier in order to make it to your morning destination on time.

4. Use a Timer. Once you know how long it actually takes you to complete different tasks, use a timer to make sure that you adhere to those times. For example, if you know that it takes you three minutes to take a shower, set a timer for three minutes right before you step into the shower. Then, when you hear the timer ring, turn the water off and step out of the shower right away.

5. Be Ruthless With Your To Do List. One reason why you may have a tendency to be late is because you simply have too much to do. If your schedule is unrealistic, how can you possibly be on time for anything? It’s better to say “no” to something you don’t have time for than it is to say “yes” and then be an hour late.

Take out your to do list and ruthlessly cross out anything that’s not a priority. Make sure that you only commit to do the number of things which you can realistically get done, and which you can realistically be on time for. Punctual people accept that they can’t do it all.

6. Be Prepared to Be On Time. Preparation is one of the keys to punctuality. As an illustration, if you’re constantly late leaving your house in the morning, set up the night before. The night before, do the following:

  • Choose the clothes that you’re going to wear and lay them out.
  • Pack your briefcase and leave it by the door.
  • Make sure that your house keys and your car keys are by the door.
  • Make your breakfast —one idea is to cut up some fruits, put them in a container, and store the container in the fridge.

As a second example, if you’re constantly late to meetings because you can’t find what you need, start preparing for meetings long beforehand. At least an hour before the meeting, gather all of the materials that you’ll need and place them on a corner of your desk or on a chair.

Always be prepared to be on time.

7. Give Yourself a Time Cushion. Even if you know how long it takes you to perform different tasks—such as driving to work or driving to a meeting across town—give yourself some extra time  in case of unexpected events. It’s a given that things are not going to run smoothly 100% of the time.

Here are some of the myriad of things that could go wrong as you try to get to your meeting across town:

  • Just as you’re leaving your office you spill coffee on your shirt, so now you have to change into the spare shirt you keep in the closet.
  • There’s construction along the route that you usually take, so now you have to take a different, longer route.
  • It starts to rain, which slows down traffic.

One of the habits of people who are punctual is that they don’t just give themselves the amount of time that they need to get to where they’re going on time. Instead, they also give themselves a time cushion in case something goes wrong.

8. Be Prepared to Wait. People usually don’t like to be early because they feel that the time that they spend waiting for others is wasted time. That is, they prefer to be late rather than having some downtime. The key to overcoming this hurdle is to be prepared to have to wait. Waiting time doesn’t have to be wasted time.

Do the following:

  • Keep a manila folder filled with industry related articles and take it with you so that you can catch up on your reading while you wait.
  • Plan to answer emails on your iPhone.
  • Use the downtime to close your eyes for a while and meditate.
  • See the waiting time as “extra time” and use it to work on a personal project, such as working on your novel or on your business plan for the small business you want to start on the side.

The best way to avoid being late is to plan to be early. In addition, you can stop dreading being early by having a plan for how you’re going to use the waiting time.

9. Change Your Thoughts About Being Early. A lot of people think that those who are important keep others waiting. Therefore, being early is a sign that they’re not that important. And no one wants to feel unimportant.

However, being early is really a sign of being organized, having respect for others, and having good time management skills. And these are all character traits of important people. Keep telling yourself, “Important people are punctual”.

10. Always Leave on Time. The moment which ultimately determines whether you arrive where you’re going late or on time is the moment in which you walk out your door. Once you’ve reversed engineered the time at which you need to leave in order to arrive at your intended destination on time, force yourself to leave at that time.

Think of the following scenario: you’ve calculated that you need to leave by ten a.m. in order to get to your meeting with the board of directors ten minutes early. Therefore, at ten a.m. on the dot get up and go. Look at the following:

  • If an email comes in at 9:59 a.m., ignore it.
  • If a colleague walks into your office two minutes before you have to leave, tell them you can give them two minutes. When the two minutes are up, excuse yourself and leave.
  • If it’s 9:58 a.m. and you feel like trying to squeeze in one more task before you leave, have the discipline to stop yourself, get your things, and walk out.
  • If you get up to leave and you notice that your diploma–which is hanging on the wall– is dusty, make a mental note to clean it when you get back. Under no circumstances should you start looking for a dusting cloth to clean it before you leave.

If you leave for your appointments on time–and you give yourself a time cushion in case something goes wrong–, you’re practically guaranteed to be on time.

11. Set Up Reminders. Set up a reminder for meetings and appointments an hour before you have to leave. Also, set up another reminder for fifteen minutes before you have to go. That way, you can time yourself so that you’re ready to leave on time.

12. Practice the Day Before. For important events, such as a job interview or if you have to give a presentation, practice how to get to where you need to be the day before. That way, you won’t lose time on the day of the important event trying to find the right address.

Make a good first impression when it comes to important events by practicing the day before so that you can be on time.


When you’re on time you’re prepared to do your best. Being punctual signals to others, as well as to yourself, that you can be depended on. Use the 12 tips above to become more punctual.

Live your best life by adopting the habit of always being on time.


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • sandy December 16, 2014, 8:06 pm

    Good tips. Recently, I read about a high profile mayor of a major city in the U.S who is said to be late for many affairs. This saddened me. I think one thing that people need to consider is that being late shows a disregard for others and their time. It may be difficult to process, but it is rude and disrespectful. It’s poor etiquette. I do recognize that for whatever reason people do have these issues( you outlined many of them) but I hope people will consider that being late sends a strong message about how you feel about other people.

  • Marelisa December 16, 2014, 8:13 pm

    Hi Sandy: Politicians are notorious for being late. And since they usually stage events with many people in the audience, lots of people end up waiting for them. I agree that it’s poor etiquette. They definitely have a lot to do, but they need to hire competent people and delegate.

  • Sampathkumar Iyengar December 16, 2014, 11:27 pm

    Dear Marelisa, Thanks for the timely article and the great posts that you have been writing and enlightening us. Seasons Greetings and Great Holidays as well

  • Marelisa December 18, 2014, 5:07 am

    Hello Sampathkumar: I’m very glad that you found the article useful. May you and your family have a joyful holiday season.

  • David December 18, 2014, 3:21 pm

    All too often being prompt is not a priority. I personally think lack of a priority is the leading cause for tardiness. Granted most people do not identify what there priorities are and might be surprised off they did.

  • Marelisa December 18, 2014, 10:34 pm

    Hi David: I agree with you that for many people being punctual is simply not a priority. And it’s a shame because punctuality is one of the cornerstones of conscientiousness, which is the most important characteristic of success.

  • FG Saayamn December 23, 2014, 6:52 am

    Very good article I have learnt something about time mangement.