How to Stop Running Late

Three Methods:Organizing Your LifePrioritizing TimelinessAddressing Your Reasons

If chronic tardiness has taken over your life and turned into a defining trait of who you are, it's likely that you're losing out on job offers, recreational opportunities, friendships, and more. If you're showing up late to your own life, get organized, prioritize punctuality, and address any underlying causes.

Method 1
Organizing Your Life

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    Always plan to arrive early. When you have to be somewhere, try to arrive 15-30 minutes before you need to. If you always run late, that means you must be failing to account for something you always do. Anticipate that by giving yourself extra time to arrive. [1]
    • Keep track of whether or not you actually do arrive early! You might find that leaving "early" gets you to places exactly on time.
  2. 2
    Set two alarms. Set one alarm that lets you know it's time to drop what you're doing, and a second alarm that means you need to walking out the door. Obey the alarms![2]
    • As soon as the first alarm goes off, stop what you're doing. If it's something you'll be coming back to, like a project for work, make a note to remind yourself where you left off.
    • Grab everything you need, and make sure you know how to get where you're going.
    • Aim to be out the door and on your way before the second alarm rings.
    • This will only work if you take the alarms seriously, so make sure you react as soon as you hear them.
  3. 3
    Prepare for the day ahead. Have all of your notes and materials organized well in advance of each event so that all you have to do is grab them and go when it's the actual day. If mornings are a struggle for you, do as much as you can to ready yourself the night before.[3]
    • Before you go to bed, lay out your clothes and pack your bag for the next day.
    • Plan your meals so that you aren't dithering about trying to find milk for your cereal in the darkest hour of dawn.
  4. 4
    Learn to leave time in between tasks and meetings. It soon becomes unbearable to lurch between one meeting and another without space in between. If you overschedule yourself, however, you'll arrive late as soon as you hit a bump.[4]
    • As well as giving you space, this time also acts as a buffer between events which can be "borrowed" from should you be held up in a prior meeting, allowing you to still get to the next one on time.
    • Calculate transit time between activities, and then add 10-30 minutes for unexpected delays.
    • If you overschedule out of fear of downtime, give yourself something pleasant or productive to do during waits. You might bring a novel you like, or use waiting time to catch up on your email.
  5. 5
    Trim your schedule. Is your calendar full of promises that you're rushing about to keep? Start thinking about how you can rearrange existing appointments and put in place a plan to accept fewer appointments in the future.[5]
    • Delegate some of the errands and chores. It's highly likely that there are other people in your life just as suitable to run some of your errands and do some of your chores, from family members to staff.
    • Look at each thing on your calendar and ask yourself what end it serves.
    • If you have multiple commitments that serve similar ends, cut some from each category.
    • Only do the things that don't take you right out of your way and that are things you're able to do in a timely way. Over stretching yourself harms your health and your interactions with others.
  6. 6
    Watch for time traps. Look for activities that suck up your day, like going online, playing video games, watching shows, cleaning, or worrying. Even helping other people can be a time suck. If you have certain activities that cause you to forget the time, schedule them for moments when they won't make you late for anything.[6]
    • Staying connected all the time may seem efficient and clued in but it can all too easily mean that you're not noticing time passing by.
    • If checking emails or playing games causes you to be late for meetings or appointments or it's causing you to miss deadlines or other things that need doing in life, it's time to realign your priorities.

Method 2
Prioritizing Timeliness

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    Remind yourself that being punctual as a matter of good etiquette. Being late is inconsiderate, while being on time is an expression of respect toward others. You lack the power to restore time other people have lost waiting for you, so it's disrespectful to assume you have the right to take it from them without good cause. While the etiquette of being on time varies according to the occasion, punctuality is always respectful. The following situations all require punctuality:[7]
    • Eating occasions: Always be prompt for a meal – the cook deserves respect and the food grows cold as it waits.
    • As for a date in a restaurant, aim to be on time; it is unacceptable to be more than five minutes late.
    • When invited to a dinner party, time it well so that you're not early (the host will still be preparing and doing last minute fixes) and so that you're no later than ten to fifteen minutes after the invited time.
    • If you realize you're not going to make a dinner party on time, ring the host and inform them so that they don't keep warming the meal to destruction while waiting for you.
  2. 2
    Keep in mind that being punctual is practical. In many situations, arriving late will prevent you from taking part in the activity you are planning.
    • Always arrive early for a movie or theater date with friends or others: If you have to purchase tickets, be there in plenty of time for lining up in what might be long queues. If you already have the tickets, arrive around 10 minutes before the show or movie begins.
    • Show up a few minutes early for appointments with doctors, lawyers, hairdressers, and other professionals. Be on time; their time is money as a business and by being late, you impact their earnings and the next customers. If you're going to be late, call ahead and advise them.
    • A job interview: Being late by even half a minute is too late. Always be on time for a job interview if you want the job.
    • A business meeting: Be right on time if not earlier to set up for presentations.
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    Be timely out of love. Treat being on time as a matter of expressing love. Coordinating schedules allows you to be part of a team. Think of how much it means to your partner, friends, family, and even coworkers that you respect their time and appreciate their timeliness.
  4. 4
    Consider the consequences of lateness. If you're an optimistic person, or if you are dealing with ADD or ADHD, you may underestimate the negative consequences of showing up late.[8]
    • Spend some time thinking about the possible repercussions of missing an upcoming event.
    • Promise yourself that you will avoid these negative repercussions by showing up on time.
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    Honor time. Getting in touch with time requires focusing on it directly. People who are late often lack a consciousness of time as a concept that needs to be harnessed to get the most out of one's life.
    • Meditation may be a good way to open up the channels to a better understanding of time.
    • You might also try keeping an appointments diary, making plans for your day each morning, and writing estimates of how long each activity might take you and a record of how long it actually did take you.[9]

Method 3
Addressing Your Reasons

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    Pinpoint why you're a perpetually late person. If you're perpetually late, it may help you to keep track of what's making you late. Figure out if you're late due to psychological reasons or processing errors.
    • Ask yourself if you are always late by the same amount of time. If you are, your problem is probably psychological. If the time varies, it's probably organizational.[10]
    • Spend a minute at the end of the day taking notes on your lateness. What were you late to? What were you doing that prevented you from arriving on time? What feelings were you having?
    • Make note of any worries you had, or any times you got stuck.
    • Consider any errors you made in your calculations.
    • When you've done this for a week or two, look over your notes. Do you see any patterns?
  2. 2
    Look at your anxiety. Do you stress intensely about things you feel you can't do, don't want to do, or can't find the resources to do? Does this lead you to cancel events, or arrive so late they can't really take place?
    • If you suspect this is the case, talk to a counselor about your anxiety. You may find talk therapy or medication to be helpful.
  3. 3
    Ask yourself if you're arriving late to test others. If you're insecure about your importance to others, you may arrive late to prove your own necessity. Ask yourself if being late make you feel needed. Do you feel superior because others must wait?[11]
    • Does being late help you feel assured of another person's love for you? Does making people wait for you serve as a way of confirming that they're willing to sacrifice their time and presence for your sake?
    • If this is the case, you might want to talk to a psychologist about improving your self esteem.
  4. 4
    Identify processing failures. You may arrive late because you genuinely struggle with spatial and temporal calculations. You may have a processing disorder, or an attention disorder like ADD or ADHD.[12]
    • If this is your issue, you may underestimate the time you need. Try timing your regular trips so that you have an actual estimate available to you.
    • If you're going somewhere new, look it up on an app like Google Maps first.
    • Pad your time. Even if you look up the distance, you may need extra time, especially if you get lost on the way.


  • Set alarms on your phone as reminders to be somewhere on time. Change the sound if you start ignoring it.
  • Other members of your family or your friends who are punctual can help you by letting you know when you risk running late and urging you to be on time. Also expect them to leave without you if you're holding them up or ask them to simply stop waiting for you. That removes their guilt and causes you to hurry up somewhat.
  • Go to bed earlier so that you can wake up earlier as well.
  • Are you wearing a watch or carrying a phone with the time on it? Not knowing the time can become an excuse for being late. Reorganize your sense of time by having the time readily accessible by you.


  • If you've been warned about lateness at work, treat the complaint seriously. It is most likely that your punctuality is being very closely assessed from the moment of the warning and you'll have very little leeway to muck up on this account.
  • The impoliteness of being late is compounded by not knowing what has caused the lateness. For many people, not knowing can be tantamount to the possibility that something bad has befallen you. At the very least, if you're unable to curtail your lateness, at least be polite enough to inform others that you're running late along with a valid excuse.

Things You'll Need

  • Diary, reminders on phone, calendars, etc.

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