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9 Habits of Very Punctual People

9 Habits of Very Punctual People
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Maybe it’s just me, but my generation (we’ll say current 13–30-year-olds) seems to be suffering from an epidemic of tardiness. I have given up on expecting people to be on time—I simply assume they’ll show up late to everything. Despite that, I’m a very punctual person and typically end up waiting for others. Sometimes my friends ask how I can so reliably be on time, and since my usual snarky response of “I show up on time” isn’t very helpful, these are 9 habits of very punctual people.

1. They Give Buffer Time for Themselves

This means that if they need to be somewhere 15 minutes away, they don’t leave 15 minutes in advance. They leave 20 or 25 minutes in advance. Why? Because you never know what might come up. You could have to find parking, could realize you forgot something, could run into a friend on the way—the possibilities are endless. By giving themselves buffer time, punctual people ensure that even if something last minute comes up, they’ll still be on time or very close to it.

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2. They Stay Organized

Punctuality isn’t just about showing up places on time; it’s a lifestyle. Punctual people will typically be reliably punctual because of their other habits, including being highly organized. They tend to keep up-to-date calendars of what’s going on, and know how long it’s going to take to get to those places. They also don’t schedule things too close together to avoid possible overlap, and design their schedules to minimize risky travel time.

3. They’re Realistic About How Long Things Take

This relates to buffer time, but it’s important that if you’re going to be punctual you know how long things will take. We tend to overestimate how quickly we can get somewhere, so a good rule of thumb is to add a few minutes or a certain percentage to how long you think it will take. We always imagine traveling in a perfect situation with no traffic or distractions, and that simply doesn’t exist.

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4. They’re Comfortable with Extra Time While Waiting

Like I said, I pretty much always expect other people to be late at this point—and I’m rarely wrong. Luckily I carry my Kindle almost everywhere so I have something to read while I wait. Other punctual people will likely do something similar, either by working on their iPad, reading a book, checking the news on their phone, or responding to emails. Whatever it is, punctual people have to be okay with waiting for others since they’ll usually end up doing so.

5. They Wake Up Early

Being punctual means being on time for others’ expectations of you, but it also means being on time for your own deadlines. That means that when a punctual person says they’ll wake up at 7am, they usually do. And conversely, people who are able to reliably wake up very early in the morning tend to be punctual. It all goes back to procrastinating—people who are punctual don’t procrastinate leaving for things, and they don’t procrastinate waking up.

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6. They Sleep Well

Not only do they wake up early, but they sleep better in general. Like I said there’s an element of procrastination to showing up late, and there’s also an element of procrastination in staying up late. People who procrastinate leaving for things tend to be late, and people who procrastinate sleeping tend not to sleep well. People who are punctual, conversely, go to bed on time and wake up feeling well rested and ready to seize the day.

7. They Don’t Procrastinate

On that note, they don’t procrastinate in general. People who show up on time and are comfortable with waiting will also be the ones to turn their work in early and not have to worry about it as opposed to scrambling at the last second. They know they’ll be stressed if they’re running behind, so they avoid getting stressed out at work just as in showing up.

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8. They’re Not Rushed

Ultimately what this means is that punctual people aren’t rushed. It seems odd that you could leave earlier for something and not be rushed, but it’s true. When you have no risk of not making it on time you don’t need to worry while you’re in transit, so you don’t feel rushed. It takes a lot of the stress out of getting around because you know you’ll make it there on time even if something comes up, so you don’t need to speed or freak out on the way.

9. They Can’t Stand It When You’re Late

This is less a habit, and more a reason to adopt the other eight. When you’re on time for everyone else, you hope for a similar courtesy. If someone is agreeing to meet up with you, the least you can do is not waste their time by being late, so naturally anyone who has to wait for you is going to get annoyed. And punctual people end up doing a lot of waiting. As a policy I’ll tend to leave after 5–10 minutes of waiting without being warned—it’s simply not worth anyone’s time to stand around waiting for someone who doesn’t have the courtesy to be on time.

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So hopefully you can apply some of these 8 habits, and keep the 9th one in mind. Woody Allen said that “80% of life is showing up” but I disagree. It should be “80% of life is showing up on time.”

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Nat Eliason

Nat is the founder of the marketing agency Growth Machine. He shares lifetyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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