If you’re reading this you’re probably guilty of texting ‘I’m 5min away’ when you have, in fact, just about left your front door. It’s not too bad (in some circles) to be late when it’s just casual drinks with friends. But for your career it’s self-sabotaging. If you’re all too familiar with entering a meeting room where everyone’s already seated, you’re in trouble.
For those stuck in a constant battle with Mr Clock, Mrs Wristwatch, Uncle Alarm Clock, and Ouma Time, it’s because you’re unable to recognise and identify the reasons why you’re always behind schedule.
And that’s because you:
Don’t leave early
If it takes you an hour to get where you need to be, don’t leave exactly 60min before the time. You have to account for the possibility of unexpected roadblocks in your path that might throw you off course.
Whether it be the Lagos traffic: an accident, a flat tyre, a broken down motorbike, or perhaps something even more unpredictable: you lost a contact lens, your sole broke, or you bump into an acquaintance who cannot stop chatting.
You are going to have to change your mindset and start assuming that things will always take longer than you think.
Don’t factor in the Pre and Post
Let’s say your appointment is scheduled for 9 and ends at 10. Very few people realise that all things considered, the appointment actually runs from about 8:45-10:15 in real life. There are simply things that happen before and after that you do not account for.
We often overestimate how much before and after time we have at our disposal. You should factor in the time it takes you to get to the meeting place (and back again) your out-of-office time increases – time that is now part of your meeting. When you enter the room, there’s greeting, paper distributing, devices being plugged in, etc. When 10am comes, the people in the room do not evaporate into thin air – no, it takes time to wrap the formalities up.
Gathering your belongings, research, gathering notes, unplugging devices, approaching participants afterwards for a more casual follow-up and/or catch-up, packing your items back into your bag, etc. all contribute to the minutes outside the planned 60mins.
It could help if you added “Transition Time” to your daily calendar to create a more realistic expectation of your schedule.
Foolishly delay tasks you hate
It’s human nature: We do things we like doing. And we don’t do things we don’t like doing. Unless we have to do it, but in which case we still don’t like it but will do it with less enthusiasm (or at least until we’re forced to do it). In other words: procrastination.
Take your morning routine for example. The one thing that makes you late is the thing you dislike the most. So, you spend too much time doing the things you like, while underestimating the time you’ll need for all remaining activities.
Applying a full face of make-up actually takes 10-15 minutes, but for those that don’t like the process but feel uncomfortable going without a fabulous face will foolishly convince themselves that it can be done in 5.
Visualise yourself going through the task, step by step. Try to imagine the circumstances leading up to the task. This provides you with a holistic and more realistic approach to the duration of the entire activity.
Try scheduling your appointments further apart. That 15min gap isn’t going to be enough to get from A to B and you very well can’t be in two places at once, now can you? Leave enough space in between each item you need to tend to and you’ll have ample time to work through the unexpected (yet somehow inevitable) obstacles on your way.
Realise that being late is not okay. It is not cute or quirky. As a professional that wants to be taken seriously, being known as the ‘Oh, she’s always late. It’s okay’ person is in no way endearing.