How to Overcome Lateness and Be On Time: Part 3

This is the third part in a series of articles on how to be on time for things, based on my experience of having been a chronic late-comer.

The first was intended to provide motivation to change, and dealt with the problems of lateness. The second dealt with basic scheduling and planning. This third episode concerns how to prepare so that you can put your plans into action.

Be Prepared

In my previous article in this series, I talked about a variety of planning and scheduling techniques that can help prevent lateness. However, If you’re not ready when it is time to leave for your appointment, then you are still going to be late. In my own battle to be on time, I’ve picked up a few simple techniques that I’ve found helpful in this area.

Be prepared.Scout motto

Allow Plenty of Time to Get Ready

Different types of appointment need different levels of preparation. Popping next door for a coffee will take less preparation than a round-the-world cruise, for example – at least for most people. Either way, the timing of your preparation needs to be appropriate, so consider carefully what you need to get ready months before, weeks before, the night before, or hours before you leave for your engagement.

So, for trips abroad, start planning early. Get flights and accommodation booked weeks if not months in advance. Above all, make sure you have your passport and visa ready before you book anything: we’ve all heard of people who discover problems in this department the night before they fly.
And for a visit next door, start getting ready 10 minutes before you’re due to leave the house. It would be impolite to keep your neighbour waiting because you can’t find your trousers… and even more rude to turn up without any!

Confirm Travel and Meeting Arrangements

Now and then I’ve been caught out by misunderstandings about arrangements that have been made. The best way to deal with this is to make sure that everything is properly confirmed in plenty of time.
Make sure all parties agree on:

  • Pick-up times
  • Ticket collection arrangements
  • Where and when people are meeting
  • What everyone will bring
  • The purpose of getting together

Make a Packing List

I find it easy to forget the things that I need to take to an appointment, and I’ve found that these lapses of memory can cost me dear in terms of time-keeping, let alone stress and inconvenience. My remedy is to make a list of everything that I’ll need, and make sure that everything on the list is checked off before I leave home.

For big events that take a lot of planning, my packing list has 3 columns:

  • The item
  • A check box to show that the item is available for packing
  • A check box to show that the item is actually packed

The advantage of this is that I can leave packing until the night before (so the house isn’t cluttered up with suit cases or whatever), but be confident that I have everything I need to pack by the time I come to pack it. Additionally, it helps me remember the last few things that couldn’t be packed ahead of time: things like my tooth-brush and my phone.

I also keep a list of last-minute things to do. This will include all the things that I can’t do ahead of time, but which must be done before I leave: things like switching off the alarm clock so it doesn’t bother neighbours when I’m not at home.

To save myself both time and mental effort when making these lists, I used to keep old ones and refer back to them as needed. I’ve now developed a single master list that I use as the basis of new packing lists, and add to it any new items that occur to me. This might seem overkill – my wife things so, and she mocks my lists quite mercilessly. Nevertheless, my “away list” has made trips away from home so much less stressful that I’m happy to live the ridicule for the sake of the benefits (and to be honest, even if I stopped she would find something else to rib me about, anyway).

Keep Travel Plans Handy

Travel plans are essential for journeys of any significance, and having your plans available when you need them can save a lot of time and stress. For example, a last-minute timetable check can involve significant delay – booting a computer, finding the site and logging in etc. – that can easily be avoided if you print / write out the timetable and keep it in a planning folder.
Things to keep in your plans might include:

  • Maps
  • Journey times
  • Packing lists
  • Contact numbers
  • Hotel names
  • Names of people you’re going to meet
  • Emergency contact details

In addition, I might add other useful information to this folder, such as information about the place I’m visiting, ideas for activities or any other information that I might need when I get there.

Check Travel Conditions Before You Leave

Travel delays are a common cause of lateness. Things like traffic jams, flight cancellations and poor weather can add significant delays to your journey. By anticipating problems, you may be able to prevent them: by taking an alternate flight, driving a different route or by leaving a little earlier, for example. So, make use of the web and any traveller help lines that are available so that you can adjust your plans appropriately.

Prioritize Time-Critical Tasks

It is all too easy for me to get distracted by things other than the ones that will get me somewhere on time. Sometimes the distractions are frivolous things: fiddling with my phone, messing about on the ‘net, reading to the end of a chapter. Other times they’re things that need to be done, but don’t need to be done right now. My grandmother, I’m told, would “miss a train rather than leave a dirty cup in the sink”. If you want to be on time, you’ll need to do first things first. So, forget finishing the washing up for now and just get going!

One tip I picked up that has helped me: when I have time to spare before an appointment, rather than focusing on tasks I try to concentrate on time. So, instead of trying to get all the washing up finished, my grandmother could have decide to spend 10 minutes on the washing up. If she managed to finish in that time that’s great, but if I she didn’t then that’s just too bad. She would just have to leave it until later because it was time to go catch her train.

Use Reminders

One of the most common reasons I’ve been late for things is simply that I’ve lost track of time. This often happens when I’m actually ready to leave for an appointment, and decide to do something useful with the spare time (although I must admit, oversleeping is quite a common reason, too).
Occasionally, I ask other people to remind me of things, but on the whole I prefer to take responsibility for my own timeliness rather than be burden on others. Apart from anything else, other people are prone to forgetting, too, which not only results in my being late, but also adds strain to a relationship.
No, the best solution for me is to set up reminders for myself. Ideal tools include:

  • an alarm clock
  • a kitchen timer
  • my watch
  • my phone
  • my PC

Live Ready

Preparation isn’t primarily about preparation for a particular event, but is about your habits. By making various lifestyle changes that you can make that will make it a lot easier to follow through on your plans and therefore avoid lateness – as well as having a whole host of other benefits.

For example:

  • Get enough sleep. Everything is easier when you’re properly rested.
  • Have a place for everything. You can get ready much more quickly if you can find what you need.
  • Become an early riser. Doing so will give you more time to get ready in the morning, and will make it easier to get to events that require an early start because you’re more used to starting early.
  • Keep things close to the place you need them. Keeping the Sat-Nav in the car, for example, means that you can use it if you get lost on the way somewhere.


Arriving on time has a lot to do with being ready to leave on time. So next time you need to be somewhere at a particular time, make like a boy scout, and be prepared.


Original image courtesy Wikipedia.

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