The Real Reason Why You’re Always Late

October 16, 2013

All manner of timeliness and tardiness boils down to one key, distinguishing factor: being realistic about how long things take you.

The difference between those who are always timely and those who are chronically late is that the former possesses clarity about how long things take them, while the latter does not. The knowledge of how long things actually take allows one to both allocate the necessary amount of time to prepare for an event, and effectively construct their daily schedules– this combination is the sugarbomb that yields perpetual timeliness.

Those who don’t know how long things take them, or are in denial, are always engaged in a game of catch-up, as they commonly allot insufficient time to prepare, and schedule their days based upon whim, optimism, or ADD.

Knowing how longs that realistically take you, and planning your schedule with that knowledge in mind–that’s the secret.

So, for all of you on-time-challenged folks, I am hereby issuing an assignment. Just as a nutritionist might instruct you to keep a food diary, I advise you to keep a time diary. Have your stopwatch at the ready, and time yourself as you attend to tasks big and small: carpool duty, doing your hair, folding a load of laundry, unloading the dishwasher, eating breakfast, and so on. Note the start time and the end time in your diary for all such tasks and activities. Do this for a minimum of one week, and up to a month, if you can stomach it.

By doing so, you’ll, a: (the bonus) be able to see in black and white how you’re truly spending (and possibly wasting) your time, and b: (the real meat) have gained the priceless knowledge of how long things actually take you. Not your best guess. Not your wishful thinking estimation. Not your well-I-really-want-to-make-this-appointment-work-so-yes-I-can-be-there-by-one.

Sure, you might also do well to take a good, hard look at how you’re spending your time, at what elements from your daily routine are slowing you down regularly, and which may be extraneous. But for the meantime, I’m concerned less about how you fill your time and more with how you construct your schedule around those limits. Because the bottom line is this: even if you’re unwilling or unable to change how you fill your time, you can most definitely alter how you manage your time, how you affect others’ time.

Once you’ve completed the time-diary-phase, your task is to use the knowledge gained of how long things take you when setting up your schedule (life).

Now that you know how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, adjust your wake-up so that your time is the same as the length of time between rising and when you must leave.

Now that you know how long it takes you to drive from the office to school, adjust your workday as needed, perhaps moving forward your last meeting of the day, so that your commute time is the same as the amount of time it takes to exit one office building, get to the car, drive to the school. 

And so on.

Of course, you’ll all be wondering at this point about the gray areas– those things that are nearly impossible to predict time-wise (among these: doctors appointments, shopping at Target, picking up prescriptions at Rite Aid, et al). And to that I say: The Buffer Zone.

In summation:

– Know how long things take you

– Plan your schedule accordingly

– Keep your eyes on the clock (and set as many reminders and alarms as needed if this is something you commonly suck at)

Blessings on your house mazel tov, mazel tov.

Image credits: Fishtail Cottage via My Sweet Savannah, unknown, Could I have That, Erika Brechtel 

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