I have been late for meetings more often since the pandemic began than I ever have in my life. I hate feeling that I’ve wasted other people’s time or hurt my reputation when people have to wait for me.
How is it possible that I am later for Zoom meetings than I am for in-person meetings? Thinking through the process of how I usually get places on time helped me diagnose the cause of my tardiness and fix it.
If you are perpetually late or just having an issue with some part of your life right now, you can apply my process to get things back on track.
What I usually do to get to a meeting on time:
- Know when the meeting starts;
- Figure out travel time to the meeting;
- Set my calendar app to remind me of the meeting with enough travel time to get to the meeting 10–15 minutes early. The more travel time needed, the more buffer I add.
Why early? Because I have a lousy sense of time. My spouse knows exactly when he needs to leave the house to get somewhere exactly on time, and that’s what he does. I know that my timings are never exact. The extra time allows for unexpected delays that always happen to me — returning to the office to grab the notebook I forgot, someone stopping me to ask a question, or my focusing on a Big Idea and going to the wrong room for the meeting.
If everything goes according to plan and I miraculously don’t get distracted on the way to the meeting, I use those few minutes to review the agenda or run through emails on my phone. In other words, getting someplace early for a meeting actually gives me time to get things done. It’s not a waste of time.
Meanwhile, people think of me as being punctual and organized instead of Messy (little do they know!).
Now, back to the Zoom meetings. Why am I late to them when there’s no chance of distraction during travel?
The answer is… (stick with me here)
The One More Thing Syndrome
My alarms for Zoom meetings were all set for 10 minutes. But I wasn’t actually going to the meeting when the alarm went off. I did exactly what I have trained myself not to do for on-ground meetings. I try to do One More Thing.
The One More Thing Syndrome is the mistaken notion that if I have 10 minutes before a meeting, I can read a few emails before I leave and still arrive at the conference room on time. It’s the thing that makes most people late. “I’ll just run a quick errand on my way to the appointment” or “I’ll pick up the kids’ toys before I walk out of the house.” One More Thing always sabotages timeliness.
One More Thing is a trap for anyone with a flexible sense of time. Don’t let it fool you into thinking it makes you more productive. It doesn’t. It just makes you late, and that’s counter-productive and insensitive to those you are meeting.
So, how did I fix my problem with being late to Zoom meetings? As soon as an alarm goes off for a meeting, I go ahead and open the Zoom room. I mute my microphone and video and then open my browser to do whatever the One More Thing would have been (usually responding to email). When I hear voices in the room, I go back to Zoom and un-mute myself. Voila! On time once again!