Everyone has at least one friend who is predictably late — to everything. No matter how much you stress the importance of being on time, they always show up five, 10 or even 30 minutes late. To fix it, you might even go so far as telling them to be places 15 minutes early without their knowledge.
Or maybe, that person is you. Have you even shown up to class on time once this quarter? Are you always wondering what was discussed during the first 10 minutes of class? Do you always have to take the worst desk in the room, never the coveted handicapped desk?
Sure, you can get away with it for now — your professors hopefully won’t flunk you for being habitually late, and your friends and family have learned to deal with it. But what about when you graduate and enter full-time into your career? Your lax attitude and inability to pay attention to detail is not going to fly.
It is said that a habit can be formed in as little as two weeks, and you form some of your lifelong habits in college. With that in mind, the following tips are meant to help put you on the path to punctuality, before it is too late (pun intended).
The first step to addressing a problem is admitting that you have one. If you are not sure whether or not you have a problem with being on time, ask your friends or family. They will be happy to tell you, kind of like how everyone in your family feels free to tell your crazy uncle that he has a drinking problem. Also, like your uncle, everyone but you might be aware that you have a problem.
Waking up on time when you have to be somewhere early is like putting cereal in the bowl before adding milk; one always has to come before the other. And if you want to function like a champ, you have to get to bed on time.
Organize your life.
Most people who are habitually late have one of two problems; they try to do too much, or they have no idea what they are doing. For those fitting into the latter category, the problem can be solved by simply keeping some kind of calendar or planner. Using Microsoft or Google Calendar are both great ways of doing this and even allow you to set reminders.
Now, if you are someone who has too much going on in your life, the answer is not as easy. One of the toughest, but most regarded, skills in life is learning to say, “No.” Saying no to friends, family or certain offers when you already have a full plate not only helps you stay on schedule, but also allows you to give everything or everyone the attention that they deserve without having to rush off or fall behind.
Slightly different than organizing your life, planning does not just mean keeping some kind of calendar or planner, it also means preparing so that you can get where you need to be on time. Setting your stuff out the night before is one example of planning. Another is making sure your gas tank is not near empty. It also means knowing the traffic and weather and planning accordingly.
Get serious about how long things take.
Realistically planning for how long activities are going to take is serious business. You tell yourself that you are going to go to our new fancy gym for an hour, and you budget that much time into your schedule for it. However, in reality, you also need time to get changed in the locker room, fill up your water bottle at one of the new water bottle filling stations (that never seem to work right) and flirt with that guy or girl from o-chem. In reality, you should have budgeted for two hours, and now, you will be late to everything else you have planned for your day. You should have been more realistic.
Without fail, one of the first things most people do in the morning after waking up is check their email. If you have somewhere to be in the morning, this can slow down the process, and even throw in a wrench with some email that you feel you just have to answer.
It has been said before, but scheduling times to check emails can go a long way to improving time management and productivity. Plan on addressing your email during lunch or after you arrive to where you need to be. Keep in mind that if it is important, whoever it is that needs to contact you will call.
Be 15 minutes early to everything.
Now that everyone has smartphones, getting to places early does not mean having to start and stop reading a book or magazine in 15 minute intervals; it now means that you can be provided with short bursts of entertainment, or even check your email — after you have arrived at your destination — while waiting. Words with Friends is one example of this type of entertainment, and is great for playing while waiting for your flight to take off.
Set your clocks ahead.
This is, quite possibly, the oldest trick in the book. Spartans who were always late to battles or kicking ass probably tilted the axis of their sundials slightly to set it a few minutes early. Go ahead and set your clocks and watches early, and better yet, set them at different times, somewhere between five to ten minutes early. That way you cannot tell yourself “everything is five minutes fast,” and it is harder to track exactly how much of a buffer you actually have.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can now be that person who is always early to everything; that person who is always sitting in the classroom, waiting for the room to fill. The person who everyone thinks must have too much time on their hands.