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Published on December 5, 2019

Why Are You Always Late and How Can You Change It?

Why Are You Always Late and How Can You Change It?

Turning up late is possibly the most selfish and rude thing you could do. When you are late, you are stealing other people’s time and that is something they can never get back. Steal their money, by all means, they can get that back. Steal their time and it’s gone forever.

If you want to dramatically improve your reputation professionally and personally, pay close attention to your timekeeping. When you respect other people’s time, they will respect yours.

So why are you always late and how can you change that to always being on time?

1. Poor Calendar Management

This is the most common reason for people being late. If you allow other people to schedule meetings on your calendar, for example, you are giving away control of your most valuable asset—your time. No matter where you are on your company’s hierarchy, make sure, at the very least, you have to accept invites on your calendar before they become confirmed.

Your calendar is unique among your productivity tools in that it never lies to you. You get the same twenty-four hours everyone else does and you get to choose how you spend those hours each day.

You can add dates to tasks that are not due on those dates in your to-do list manager, you cannot do that on your calendar (well you could, but that would just be lying to yourself and what’s the point of that?) This means you can instantly see when you double-book yourself or if you don’t leave enough time between meetings. It will tell you if you have left a realistic amount of time to get from one place to another because you can see on your screen where you are supposed to be next.

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A trick I use, when I am asked if I can attend a meeting on a specific day, is to always reply “let me check my calendar and I will get back to you”.

I could check my calendar from my phone and tell them immediately, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes by rushing to confirm an appointment without taking an extra few minutes to check and make sure I have enough travel time between my appointments. It also allows me time to consider whether whatever I am being asked to do is something I want to do. If it is not, then I can easily decline the invitation.

2. Learn to Say No

Time tested and still the most effective way to get control of your time and not be late for your commitments. We all tend to overcommit ourselves. We want to be nice, we do not want to hurt other people’s feelings by rejecting them. We don’t want to miss out on an opportunity—the fear that everyone else knows what’s going on and we don’t. It all builds up to make us want to say “yes” all the time.

That is what causes us to over-commit ourselves, and then we find we are running late to all our events and commitments which does the reverse of what we want to achieve—have the respect of our peers.

When you start being much more objective about what you say “yes” to and analyzing whether you do have time to commit to what it is you are being asked to commit to and being willing to say “no” to many of these opportunities that destroy your ability to keep time effectively, then you will find that rather than being late all the time, you start to be the first to arrive.

That’s when your peers begin to respect you more. You have demonstrated you respect their time and in return, they will respect yours.

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You need to know that saying no to opportunities and commitments helps everyone. If you say yes to something and are not totally committed to carrying through with that commitment, you are not only letting down your peers, you are also letting down yourself.

Get comfortable saying no. You will find it helps you a lot more than you think.

If you need a little help on how to say no, check out this article written by Leo Babauta: The Gentle Art of Saying No

3. Allow Extra Time to Get to Where You Are Going

This one has the added benefit of reducing stress. When you arrive early to your appointments and meetings, you get time to stop and reflect or catch up.

You can do the same with doctors and dental appointments too. Those few spare minutes in a waiting room are great places to do some focused work or reply to a few emails. It gives you some much-needed breathing room in an otherwise chaotic world.

4. Overcompensate on Travel Time

You never know what the traffic will be like and while we do have the technology to inform us of traffic hot spots today, a build-up of traffic can happen incredibly fast. One small accident could very easily add an extra thirty minutes to your travel time.

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The secret is to allow for that. Give yourself an extra thirty minutes of travel time and you will gain the benefit the other side. I’ve often found myself with thirty-minutes in an empty meeting room to get on with my work undisturbed.

5. Never Be Afraid to Excuse Yourself from an Over-Running Meeting.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is and you help everyone else caught up in someone else’s mismanaged meeting. Another one you could do is to refuse to attend any meeting that does not have a clearly defined start and finish time and an agenda.

Of course, this can be difficult if it is your boss who is the culprit. But you need to get control here. If you are attending a meeting where you know the organizer regularly overruns their meetings and they are above you in the company’s food chain, then explain at the beginning you will have to leave at a specified time.

This has two benefits:

First, it alerts the organiser to the need to finish on time. Secondly, everyone else in the meeting will feel a great deal of gratitude towards you for increasing the chances the meeting will finish on time.

Never compromise here. You committed to being somewhere at a specific time. You checked your calendar, you knew when you made the commitment about the meeting and so, you have a duty to follow through with your commitment, part of which is being on time.

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I’ve even been known to inform my dentist that I will have to leave at a certain time so I can get to a pre-scheduled appointment. This now means my dentist is always honest with me about how long a specific treatment will take, which helps me to make better judgments about how much time I will have before my next appointment.

If you have any doubts about whether you will be able to get to an appointment on time, don’t make the appointment. Or better prioritize your commitments. It’s far better to cancel an appointment in good time than to have everyone waiting for you.

Final Thoughts

We foolish think money is our most valuable asset forgetting that money can always be gained or lost. Unlike time, where once it has gone, it has gone for good and you will never get it back. When you understand this, you start to understand that you have to not only protect your own time, but you should respect the time of others too.

Arriving late for appointments—no matter who you are—is not being civilized. It is just good manners to show respect for people’s time and that starts by always arriving on time for your meetings and appointments.

More About Time Management

Featured photo credit: Luke Chesser via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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