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How to Be on Time

Updated on January 4, 2013


goes the clock. No matter what you do, you can never get to that appointment, job, party, or class on time. You are mocked and made fun of by friends and family because you are notorious for being late. Is it hopeless? Are you subject to a life of constantly being 'behind the times'?

No. Anyone can be on time, no matter what type of upbringing or personality you have. This article will give you the secret to becoming the person who you have always secretly hated for showing you up. If you are already convinced you need to learn this skill, go down to the part that says, "Learn to feel time".


"I'm not convinced yet." An answer to why is it important to be on time.

There is one simple reason that timeliness should be at the top of everyone's to do list. It shows you care. You care about other people's time and money and energy. When you are late, you are making someone else wait for you. At its worst, chronic tardiness could be the catalyst for a failing grade or a pink slip. Something as simple as time should never be the reason you fail.

For the times in life when being late is inevitable (car crash, traffic jam, sick child, etc.), people will be far more gracious if you are not known for being late. Otherwise, its the ol' boy crying wolf problem.

Are you convinced yet? If you have been searching online for "how to be on time", chances are you do not need any more convincing.

There are two parts to learning how to be on time. It is all about "feeling" the accurate amount of time passing and accurately estimating how long an activity will take. Do those two things and you'll never be late again. Let's get started.

Learn to feel time

This exercise is simple and can be done at home- during virtually any activity. You are going to practice feeling units of time. Do you frequently say, "Just a minute?" and it's actually ten? Teach your body to know when a certain amount of time is up.

Buy a timer and a stopwatch
You want to teach yourself to feel the increments of 1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 60 minutes. Here's how you do it.

1. Find an activity that you like to do or have to do often. Computer and TV don't count because it is too easy to get lost in the activity and forget the feeling of time. Try something like walking the dog, reading a book, drinking a cup of tea, taking a shower, or cleaning a room. You want to do that activity for the amount of time prescribed (so use brushing your teeth to time 1 minute, reading for 30, etc. Find the increment of time that makes the most sense for the activity you are doing).

2. Set the timer. Now begin your activity and stop when the timer goes off. Do this for a couple of days. Once you feel like you have the "feeling", you move on to the second phase- the stopwatch.

3. Instead of using a timer to test yourself, use a stopwatch instead. This time, just start the stopwatch and do your activity. Stop when YOU FEEL like the time is up. Check the watch. How close did you come? If you were way off, go back to the timer and do it a couple more times before using the stopwatch.

Estimate correctly

Once you can feel time, now you must learn to estimate the correct amount of time an activity is going to take. This exercise is similar to the one above. I am convinced this is the core reason people are late. They don't know how long things take.

1. Estimate how much time it will take you to do an activity. Based on your feeling time exercises, imagine yourself doing it and hopefully your internal clock will be a bit more sensitive. Let's take grocery shopping as an example. It takes 10 minutes to drive to the store. It takes about 15 minutes to pick up 12 items at the store, and another 10 minutes to drive home. So it should take you 35 minutes correct? WRONG.

You have forgotten how much time it takes to find a parking space, paying at the checkout, and loading the groceries. You should add at least 2 minutes to find a space, 6 minutes to check out, and another 2 minutes to load the car. Now the activity should take you 45 minutes.

2. Once you've estimated your time, set your stopwatch and go to it. When you get home, write down how long it took you. How close did you come? If you were way off, try to determine if there were extenuating circumstances or your estimation was off.

Build in a safety net

So you can feel time and you know how to estimate time. Now you must build a safety net. If that grocery shopping activity takes 45 minutes, give yourself an extra 5 or 10 minutes if you know that there are traffic lights or a high likelihood that you will meet someone and want to chat it up. Give yourself more wiggle room the more important the appointment is.

Do you have kids?
If you have kids, you need to add more time to each activity than it would take just for you. Then you need to build a safety net on top of that. So that grocery shopping trip that was 45 minutes, became 55 minutes when we build in a safety net. If you add three kids to the mix, add more time. Isn't it amazing how a trip that you thought would be a quick 30 minutes turns into an hour? Most people when they start doing this say, "NO way will it take an hour!" That is why you are always late. You are not Speedy Gonzales. You are deluded.

How late are you?

See results

Check the time of day

If you are typically a morning person, you won't need as much of a safety net during that time of day. The nighttime might be a different story. Know your own rhythms.

What's worse? To be early or late?
After you begin implementing these exercises, you may start arriving places early. Here is the temptation. "Oh, well since I am early, I must not need to estimate so much time." All of a sudden, you are late again. What happened?

Most likely, you are more vigilant when you are consciously paying attention to the time or the stopwatch. When something is new, you are more likely to be enthusiastic. Once the high of being the "early one" wears off, you will want to slide back into cutting corners. Don't do it. Always build that safety net and remember, "early" never hurt anyone!

-Julie DeNeen
chronically early and proud of it!


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    • breathing profile image


      5 years ago from Bangladesh

      Punctuality is one of the best adjective for a human life. Man or women gain it by practicing time maintaining. In your article you decorated very beautifully about time maintaining. For doing perfectly all of our social and personal work we should maintain the time. It is a natural thing that if you are failure to do work in-time then it may bring a bad effect in your life. So, we should be careful about this. Thank you very much for your valuable and beautiful article.

    • Joseph041167 profile image

      Joseph Mitchell 

      6 years ago from Nashville TN 37206.

      I have discovered that there is no such thing as just being on time, you are eithor early or you are late. Statistically this will happen. You must be early always. In Nashville, the first time you show up barely late, you are already fired. It may take them a full year to work it out, the paper work, but it is already done. You cannot be late here, ever, for any reason. I know it is insane, I know. You probably want to be early any how, and if you miss, you stand a chance of being on time. Do not ever be late, they will fire you. And I know most of you want to be responsible, achieving, successful, winner people, I think.

    • weestro profile image

      Pete Fanning 

      6 years ago from Virginia

      Looks like I'm a little late arriving to this hub! Great tips here Julie, voted up and awesome!

    • lemonkerdz profile image


      6 years ago from LIMA, PERU

      Great hub and a huge problem for some people. My mother in law is known as the late Val Robb not because she is dead but ALWAYS late. Being English it is one of the most important things we had to learn, especially if you want a job. Punctuality is actually arive 5-10 before, not on the dot. Now living in south america... it´s a whole new world to what i was used to.

      You can have a less stressful life if you just plan your timing a little better. Thanks for the reminders. and voted up

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am both thankful that you wrote this (im convinced on entirely my own behalf) and offended that you didn't mention me in your inspiration : )

    • mismazda profile image


      6 years ago from a southern georgia peach

      i just have to be on time..I hate being late..this is a very big pet peeve of mine...Promptness is always good in my book.

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 

      6 years ago from London

      I should admit that I have some issues on being on time .. people gets really angry with me :P .. On the other hand I always spend much more time than the usual regarding my work or my interests.

      I appreciated your tips a lot, they are ideal for my case, voted up!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Time is money and I hope we can use the wisely. You have great information here. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

    • Made profile image

      Madeleine Salin 

      6 years ago from Finland

      I'm usually on time, but the man I live with doesn't have a clue about what time is. He can work for hours and forget to eat. We are always late when our whole family is going somewhere. He thinks we can start ironing clothes when we already should be sitting in the car. It's so annoying. Maybe this hub can help my man to be on time. Very good and useful hub! :)

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 

      6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      If I am on my own, I am always on time. If I am on my own with the kids, I am almost always on time. If I am with my wife and with or not with the kids, I am on time about half the time. I have trouble getting her to appreciate the importance of timeliness. I will see if I can get her to read this hub.

    • Elise-Loyacano profile image


      6 years ago from San Juan, Puerto Rico

      I am chronically early, which puts me in the freak-of-nature zone since I live in a culture in which people are generally late. I always have a time cushion, just in case, so I don't arrive late. And I make sure I have a book with me since I generally have to wait for the latecomers!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I had to come back to see the comment you mentioned on Facebook....way too funny!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Boy oh boy there are alot of self-righteous "early birds" out there. There are many reasons that people aren't on time and sometimes it is very inconsiderate and rude. But there are many reasons that have nothing to do with being rude or inconsdierate but rather some flaws or inabilities that some folks have. So try not to be so damn judgemental folks. Think a bit more deeply about why people do certain things and maybe you will be surprised to find that the conclusions you draw about another person's behavior are not always accurate.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Ok, smarty pants.  Your article was quite useful and made good sense. There are a few additional things that have to be considered when getting better at estimating how long an activity takes.  Yes, your advice about adding a safety net in general, and then additional time if you have kids etc. is true and wise, but there is one other important thing to note in that section that I think is at the root of why many people are late - "indecision" or the person who tends to weigh all the options and then some.  I think it is much easier to be on time if you are someone who makes quick decisions.  So, taking the example of getting dressed. One might reasonable say it takes 20 minutes to get dressed, lets define "getting dressed". To me that includes picking out the clothes you want to wear and putting them on.  That might involve going to the basement to find them, ironing them, then discovering a stain on the shirt you planned to wear that is the only one that goes with the pants you wanted to wear.  So now you have to go to plan b and it's 90 degrees out and you want to be comfortable but you are a bit overweight so you can't just throw on a tank top so now you have a bit of a problem and you have to make some decisions.  Is it better to be comfortable and look like a bimbo or to be slightly less comfortable and look business  appropriate!  So now that decision brings in all kinds of background baggage of a time when you were teased for wearing something sloppy or inappropriate.  So you begin to stress and knowing now that you only have 10 minutes and you have to catch a train, and that stress just makes your decision making even harder because you get nervous and your decision making faculties get worse instead of better.  Sooooooooo, there are critical components that have to be considered if you really want to get a handle on how long an activity takes. YOu have to know yourself and your tendencies and the potential obstacles that will mess up what might have been a reasonable time estimate.  So, on a good day, 20 minutes to get dressed is perfectly reasonable and may even be too much time, but throw in a few hurdles of locating that piece of clothing, stains, and hot weather and you have a whole other story.  So there needs to be 2 estimates for each activity.  One estimate is for an activity assuming no unforeseen issues and a 2nd estimate where you assume what can go wrong, will go wrong.  

      So, your advice is very true and wise and well put.  But as usual, it's not quite that simple.

    • jimmar profile image


      6 years ago from Michigan

      Hi Chronically Early. I'm Always Early. Nice to meet you. I think I need to let my wife read this. She doesn't mind arriving late to a movie and searching for a crowded seat in a dark theater. I usually leave with a stiff neck for sitting in the very front row. I can't stand to miss even a minute of the previews. Your advice on estimating correctly is right on.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      6 years ago

      I come from a family of early people. My problem is I am too early which can sometimes be a detriment. If I am too early to something I'll sit in my car or walk around. I have driven around the block many times to kill some time before I need to be somewhere. It irks me when people are chronically late.

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      6 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Julie... published this three days ago...I am late. I guess the exercise could much time would it take to...oh say...reach 10,000 views or something (put the stop watch away and pull out the

      This is very helpful...I'm usually on time but almost never in the morning. I believe that is an alarm clock issue but I take the brunt of the heat for it. It's so easy to hit snooze.


    • naimishika profile image


      6 years ago from India

      Be punctual... that's the secret of my success in life. Whatever, whenever... i tried to be there before time..

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @mcGilwriter- Ha! That's funny :)

    • McGilwriter profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      I like to be on time but there are times when it just doesn't matter. I try to know the difference, and be on time when it matters. My wife feels like she is late when she isn't 30 minutes early!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @dinkan- thank you for sharing!

    • dinkan53 profile image


      6 years ago from India

      You are right, I value my time immensely and want to show respect for other’s time as well. Some nice suggestions here. Thanks for providing this hub, Voted up and useful. SHARED!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @liz- yes, I love those exercises and want to make my kids do it! :)

    • profile image

      Liz Walmoth 

      6 years ago

      I love your step-by-step process of feeling time. I am usually on time, but I know I will be more aware of all the components to make that happen from now on. Great hub.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      At all parties, I am stylishly late and one of the first to leave (I never stay till the end). For business I am the opposite.

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @mary- thank you!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      6 years ago from Florida

      I'm always on time, and I get very annoyed with my friends who keep me waiting for them. I think it's rude!

      I hate to be on time for a Dr's appt. and then have to wait an hour to see him.

      I voted this UP.

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @Nell- yes me too! :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, I tend to be the one who always turns up early for everything! lol! sitting in a bar for example, all on my own! but if I do think there is a possibility of me being late, getting up in the morning for a flight for example, I will set the clock for an hour earlier than necessary or even put the clock forward an hour!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, I tend to be the one who always turns up early for everything! lol! sitting in a bar for example, all on my own! but if I do think there is a possibility of me being late, getting up in the morning for a flight for example, I will set the clock for an hour earlier than necessary or even put the clock forward an hour!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @billybuc- me too! LOL

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ask Bev....I am annoyingly on time every single time, no matter the occasion or errand or whatever. I have this internal clock that rarely lets me down....and I drives me nuts when people are late.

      I sure hope a lot of people read this!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @kelleyward- thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Julie this is full of helpful tips for those who have difficulty getting places on time. I'm like you, a chronically early arriver. I almost need the tips for estimating how long it really takes to get somewhere with three kids. I tend to overestimate. Voted up and shared. Kelley

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @carol- it's really a pet peeve of mine as well...

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @alecia- thank you!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @btrbell- let me know how it goes if you decide to try my tips!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @joanveronica- wow! thanks for thinking it was that good! LOL

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @josh- your welcome :)

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @mperrottet- I really tried to think hard about WHY people are late...thanks for stopping by!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @Joseph- well aren't you a fast learner! LOL

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @evans4life- I hate waiting too!

    • Julie DeNeen profile imageAUTHOR

      Blurter of Indiscretions 

      6 years ago from Clinton CT

      @Deborah- thanks! :)

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      I know so many people in my life that drive me crazy that is always late.. if I say I am going to be somewhere I am there on time and a lot of times early... lol.. great hub..they need to read this.. hub


    • Evans4life profile image


      6 years ago

      I am very punctual,usually early. I absolutely hate waiting for someone who is late. When you are late you are saying that my time is not important. Great hub!

    • Joseph Howard profile image

      Joseph Howard 

      6 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      Oh man, this is a great hub. I thought reading this would take me three minutes, but it took me seven. Add on another two minutes for typing this comment. Now, I'm going to be late for the movies. Nice job!

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 

      6 years ago from San Antonio, FL

      Great hub. I try to always be on time, and am generally early. This article may really help those who have trouble getting anywhere on time. Maybe just the reminder that it's inconsiderate to keep others waiting will help. However, the people I know that are consistently late are not really inconsiderate people in general. I just think that they have trouble pacing themselves. You offer practical ways of learning how to break that.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania


      That was a fantastic and very enjoyable read! Awesome rips and very informative! I am always early because I hate being late! :) Thanks for sharing Julie.

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      6 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi, that was one fantastic read! I belong to the group that is usually early, and everybody hates me for it (not really, they just make funny remarks).

      Voted up, awesome and interesting.

      I'm bookmarking this article, and I will use it (with your permission) to motivate students who are preparing for TOEFL and IELTS, and who have very rigurous timelines to comply with on these tests. I think we could start good discussions in class with your points.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 

      6 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      I am so ashamed because while I agree wholeheartedly with all of you, I do recently have a problem with lateness. {insert hanging head} This has not always been a problem for me so I appreciate and welcome any and all help. I used to be the one sitting and waiting for everyone else and truthfully, I still am most of the time. It's these other times that scare me! Voted up and useful! Thank you!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I think we have similar mindsets because I completely agree with your sentiments. I always try to be on time or early and my strategy works. You're right about finding an activity by which you have to time yourself to do. That's what I did in college and it helped me not stay up as late as many of my friends did. I think this hub should be posted everywhere. Great job!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      Being on time is my pet peeve. I really get angry when waiting in a restaurant for a friend, or when people come late to dinner. My husband and I are always on time. I think it is a commitment you have to make. I don't consider five or ten minutes a problem..but after that. Also away to solve the being late problem is to call and let the person know. However, it is a great hub and you covered it all. Voted UP


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