I once had a boss—let’s call her Natalie—who was perpetually late. She would race into the office every morning, stressed and disheveled, and she’d always have to reschedule meetings. I almost had a panic attack once when she arrived just 17 seconds before our flight closed for boarding on an important business trip.
I’ve known a few people like Natalie, and I always think, How do they do it? I mean, isn’t it so anxiety-inducing to always race against the clock? If you take a few minutes for preparation and think ahead, it’s way easier than contending with time as a constant enemy. Natalie’s approach didn’t do her any favors, that’s for sure. Her lack of organization meant she never got selected for leadership roles, and she wasn’t considered for the promotion she wanted. It wasn’t surprising.
The good news is that punctuality is not a gene. Anyone can master it! Yes, even that friend who always makes you lose your table at the trendy new restaurant and the colleague who is consistently 10 minutes late to Every. Single. Conference. Call.
I have four inboxes, a business with several facets, and I live in a non-central part of the city, so I am constantly on the go. Here’s how I manage to stay on (or ahead of) schedule 99 percent of the time!
1. Refuse to take on too much.
Overscheduled people (guilty!) run the risk of being late, because they squeeze more into their calendar than a 24-hour slot will allow. Hey, you can’t fit seven eggs into a half-dozen carton without a mess. This one simple rule will transform your life. Natalie was always going to unnecessary meetings with unlikely vendors and allowing trivial coffee dates to run way over their finish time within her precious working hours.
What can you scratch off the agenda before you even begin today? Get real with yourself here. What can you say “no” to in order to give your best to the stuff that really matters? You know, don’t you? So decline! Delete! Reject that caller dialing you with an unknown number who will hold you up. Say “No, thank you,” more than “Well, OK.”
2. Set aside a few minutes to plan.
Look at your day the night before or first thing in the morning. Where do you have to be, and by when? What do you have to do, and how long will each task take you? All you have to do is a bit of time budgeting!
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Say you have three tasks to complete, and two meetings that both require a little prep and travel time. Schedule an approximate time for each of the three tasks, and give yourself some extra padding in case you need a little longer than you think. Accounting for error is not only practical, it allows you to zip around without worry. Bliss!
Now you have a gorgeous, on-time day ahead, with zero schedule-related stress. It can be that simple.
3. Have some hacks handy.
Without dry shampoo, an accessory collection that dials up a basic black outfit, and a handbag-ready bright lipstick, getting ready would take me at least 30 minutes more per day. When you have some time-saving hacks in your life, your appearance remains strong in a fraction of the time.
Someone once taught me to decide my outfit for the next day on my commute home every evening. Figure out what’s clean and what will work with the weather to make the next morning that much smoother.
4. Start batching.
Whether you’re planning Instagram updates, sending emails, or even make-ahead meals for the week, batching is a time-saver. Once you’re in a shopping, writing, or social media mindset, optimize that by thinking a few days or a week out. When you’re already at Whole Foods, could you satisfy not just your current craving, but also make snacks for the week? A working mum shared with me the secret of batching meals, chores, and even paying bills online. Try it—you won’t go back.
5. Just lie.
Yes, lie! If late people in your life hold you back, tell them that the event is an hour before it actually is. Tell your perpetually tardy friend that the reservation is for 7 p.m. when it’s actually 7:30. I do this with my husband a few times a week, and I think he secretly doesn’t mind. He needs the nudge.
How will you save time this week, early bird?
Susie Moore is Greatist’s life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!