How to Stop Being Late and Conquer Time Management

Typical Maria — Is what people used to say when I was late for an appointment, and I really hate it. I couldn’t do anything else than saying that I was really sorry and smile.

You know, I’m Latina — I hate it even more, using my “Latino chilling power” so everybody thought that I just liked to “take it easy” and not that I had a serious problem with being on time in my everyday life.

I used to pray the lord for the metro to go faster and the streets to be empty or even for the other person to be as late as me, so I wouldn’t feel guilty for making someone else wait.

Let me tell you how I conquered my own problem against time, and how I’ve spent the last 250 days without being late, not even once.

I remember the day I swore I’d never be late again in my life. I was going to a modeling contract with a clothing company in Montreal and it was “back to school week” in September 2016. It’s known in Montreal that traffic jams get worse once Autumn starts compared to Summer, and I knew it too. However, I didn’t plan this “change” in my morning routine and I left home at the same time as during Summer months. I was almost 30 minutes late, and a whole team was waiting for me to start working. They were nice and comprehensive, but I was feeling like shit. I knew deep down that this was totally my responsibility. After all, they were on time living in the same city as me. So they simply planned better than I did. Period.

I was so mad at myself that I had tears in my eyes. Even if this single situation wasn’t a big deal, it was one time too many and I decided to change. That day I promised myself that being on time would become a habit. It would be “normal Maria.”

Before talking about solutions, I want to share my personal list of what I think are the main consequences of being systematically late in your personal life and professional life. For me, this list acted as a motivator to keep working towards my objective.

- First, your reputation is definitely on the line, people will perceive you like a person who is unstable and out of control. You’re sending the message that you are unreliable.

- It lowers your self-esteem, you feel like you are victim of external factors and not a master of your life. You truly feel bad and sorry about being late but somehow you keep repeating the same behaviour again and again.

- Your friends and coworkers will feel played and disrespected. If you can’t respect your schedule, you will awake frustrations and a feeling of injustice. You will be seen like someone who doesn’t appreciate someone else’s time and effort to be on time.

- At work it can be a cause of real trouble and your short and long-term future will be tarnished by this problem.

- You will be in constant distress. Being late makes you liberate cortisol and being in an alert state constantly. This makes you feel anxious and tired all the time, so you lose health and productivity.

- When you have a real emergency or difficult situation no one is going to believe you because you already played that card too many times.

OK, that being said let’s talk about the action plan. Well, the first step is to accept that being late has become a real problem in your life that is affecting your relationships, work, and credibility. You are more than this annoying habit and it’s time to prove it. Don’t try to diminish the fact that you are systematically late. Stop justifying yourself by saying that it wasn’t your fault somehow, people will believe this once or twice but after that they will feel mocked and degraded. For me, the first step was to admit that being late was a real problem in my life, and to acknowledge that I was in pain and frustrated with myself each time I wasn’t on time.

I tried multiple easy/fast/magical methods: Putting clocks 10 minutes late so I felt rushed. Putting Post-its on the walls and mirrors with motivational phrases. Trying to arrive an hour before the appointment, etc.

None of them really worked for me, but one: Analyzing the specific sources of my problem and finding realistic solutions for each one. The first source was that I didn’t evaluate realistically the time it takes completing each activity before an appointment. I’ll use a worksheet as an example of what I used to think of my preparation time vs what it really is:

The difference between what I thought it would take and what it actually takes to be ready to go is actually the average time I was late to my appointments: around 50 minutes.

Add to this list unexpected events like a metro problem, traffic, spilling some coffee on your clothes, or simply forgetting something at your place and having to go back.

The second source was that I was kind of an action seeker. A part of me (subconscious one) found the fact of being out of control kind of exciting. I used to feel like being on time and wait for someone to arrive was super boring and annoying. This rush/excitement feeling is also behind the procrastinator’s profile, and if you are constantly late I bet that you also have a procrastination problem. Surprisingly, once I started to be on time I discovered a new world of peace and freedom that was the opposite of boring. I could stop in a coffee shop before my meetings; I could enjoy the city by walking at a normal and relaxed pace and most of all I felt proud of myself because each time I was on time it was a little personal victory.

The last source is probably the one that had the biggest impact in my lack of time management and it was distractions. Taking a little too long finishing my coffee because of social media checking, reading the news and talking about it for 10 or 15 minutes with my boyfriend, texting or emailing… all of this takes time, time that we don’t take into account while planning our morning routine. So you’d better add 10–15 minutes more just in case you get caught in a passionate conversation, a super interesting article on the web, or an irresistible cat video J

Keep this in mind: saying you’re sorry, even if you truly are, is not enough. So start acting like the person you want to become! Believe me, it is possible if you really want to! And for instance watch this funny video about Latinos being late that will make you laugh for sure!