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Time Management Strategies: How to be on time when running late

Updated on September 17, 2012


As you roll over and take another glance at the clock, you realize it is 7:50 AM. You have to be to work at 8:00 AM. Knowing that your drive to work takes twenty minutes on a good day, you realize you are going to be late.

You fly out of bed in a panic and immediately run through a plan of action in your head. As you go through the dreaded steps of calling into work, you are sliding on your dress pants and buttoning up your work shirt. You exchange your usual sit down breakfast for grabbing a banana as you exit the house. You start the car and check your look in the rearview mirror. You notice yesterday evening’s five o’clock shadow is now the growing outline of a beard and there is no time to shave now. How did this happen? What can you do to avoid this from happening again?

Everyone has been late for something before and boy does it suck! Not only does it cause stress, it also can put you in bad standing with your boss or significant other. Being late for picking up the kids is the worst. Kids do not understand the stress of adult life and can take being late personal.

According to ABC’s Good Morning America, “Americans are planning and scheduling their lives more than ever before” and “a recent survey shows that 15 to 20 percent of the US population is consistently late, especially when it comes to work.” In the busy world we live, whereas everything is expected immediately, people are consistently late for something. Although research supports that most people our concerned about being late to work, being late for anything seems as though it lowers our standing amongst our peers.

Although we cannot control the unexpected curve balls life brings, there are five tactics that can help people deal with time management. These tactics can be used to give people a level-headed plan to get themselves to their destination safely and on time without speeding. If not exactly on time, hopefully people will arrive with urgency and still look respectable upon getting there.

Plan Ahead


The first check on the list is planning ahead. It blows my mind how people can manage to be late to work on a regular basis, even when their start time is exactly the same every day. To me, this is simply a lack of planning ahead.

By planning ahead, it means doing things in advance to prepare one’s self for their per posed schedule. Such things could include packing, making your children’s lunch, picking out your next day’s attire, pressing your clothes, and even showering before going to bed. By being prepared in advance, it can save you when unexpected events arise like over sleeping, cleaning up your child’s spilled milk or a mess your dog left in the living room. Try to get as much done in advance so that when it comes time to rise to the occasion, you will be ready with minimal effort and time. This is such a simple concept and yet it can save you valuable time when seconds count.

Activate your "Plan B"


I call the next tactic, plan B. There is a reason every military mission has a back-up plan and that is simply because life never follows a strategic plan and things always arise unexpected.

Eliminate tasks that are not necessary. When you are running late on time, you have to decide what is absolutely essential to getting yourself to where you need to be in a timely manner. Everything non-essential needs to be dropped and either resumed once you get to your destination or skipped entirely. Once you realize you are going to be late, immediately switch gears and activate your plan B.

For a good plan B, ask yourself two questions and record them on paper if necessary. The first question, what needs to be done prior to going __________? Fill in the blank with whatever task you are preparing for, like going to work. Now think of everything you would need to do from the moment you wake up to the time you walk into the office. Included in there would be things like eat breakfast, take morning vitamins, get the kids ready for school, travel to work, etc. Add up the approximate time for each task and then add 20 minutes to the total. The result is the total amount of time it should take you to get ready when you are on time. The extra 20 minutes is simply for unexpected things such as heavy traffic or your child being sick. Hopefully, most days you will not need the extra 20 minutes but it is nice to be early sometimes too :-)

The second question, what things could you eliminate if you were running late? Could you do your make-up at work? Could your significant other handle the kids? Maybe you would skip brushing your teeth for one morning. Maybe you would give your children money to buy their lunch instead of packing a lunch for them. Think of everything you could cut out and what essential tasks still remain. Add up the approximate time of the essential remaining tasks. What you are left with is the total amount of time it should take you when you are late. Convert this time to memory. Then, when late, subtract it from the time you need to be at your destination. The result is the latest time you can leave your current position and still make it to your destination on time. Become familiar with what is essential and what is not so you can eliminate the fluff on days you are late. Hopefully you will not need a plan B, but you should always have one prepared. Plan B should be given careful consideration and advanced planning in order to be pulled off successfully.

Use a watch


Use or buy a good watch. It is kind of a no brainer that when you are concerned enough about getting somewhere on time (to the point you are reading a hub about it) you should probably have a good watch on hand….no pun intended ;-)

Wear a watch that is comfortable for you and matches your style. It really does not matter what kind it is as long as it keeps the time and is reliable.

Synchronize the time on your watch to the exact second of a cell phone. This will ensure the watch is accurate. Almost all modern computers, clocks, and cell phones are connected to Wi-Fi or the internet. Syncing your watch from your cell phone should keep you on time with the rest of the world.

So if you are synchronizing your watch from your cell phone, why not just use your cell phone? The answer is simple. When running late, it is not uncommon for you to be using your hands to assist in getting yourself ready in a hurry. Taking the time to set things down, locate your cell phone, push the side button, set the phone back down, pick up the items you just had, and continue where you left off is a process that diminishes time. This time could have been saved by a simple glance at a wrist.

Use the alarm feature on your Cell Phone


Use a cell phone as a primary or back-up alarm clock. This is huge when relying on electronic technology to get you going from a somber state. Cell phones run off of battery power and make great alarm clocks when there is an unexpected power outage. Not only do cell phones run off of DC power, they have the unique ability to download the most annoying and loudest alert tones known to mankind. How many times has a power surge reset your alarm clock making you late for something? I’m sure you have heard co-workers blame a power outage on their tardiness before. Have you ever heard of someone setting their alarm clock for PM when they meant to set it for AM, or vice versa?

Because of this, set two alarms. If you use an DC power generated alarm clock, make sure you back it up with your cell phone in case the power goes out. Then, should the power go out, you still have the safety of your cell phone alarm to awake you.

There is a snooze feature on cell alarm clocks but be careful! Usually the button(s) to dismiss the alarm entirely is close to the snooze button. In your dreamy state, this may have you shutting off your alarm when you think you are simply snoozing it. If using your cell phone only, set two alarms to go off within fifteen minutes of each other. Set the first alarm to a time that you should get up and the second alarm for when you absolutely have to get up. You can even change the alert tone on the last alarm to let you know that it is your final alarm.

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Example of Mens Late BagExample of Females Late Bag
Example of Mens Late Bag
Example of Mens Late Bag
Example of Females Late Bag
Example of Females Late Bag

Prepare a Late Bag in Advance


Finally, prepare a late kit and keep it easily accessible. This late kit should be either an easy to carry tote bag or an over the shoulder bag. Try to keep the bag small and always packed, ready to go. Its contents should stay fairly consistent with tasks you eliminated in your above described plan B. It should give you the opportunity to continue eliminated tasks once you arrive safely to your destination. If you are a female, pack things like make-up, a hair brush, cosmetics, deodorant, a selection of accessories, tweezers, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, hair ties, lotion, and perfume (to name a few). Men should think of packing a comb, shaving razor, shaving cream, lotion, after shave, tooth paste, a tooth brush, mouthwash, and deodorant.

All items should be separate from the same items you use at your home. Yes, this means you may need to purchase more than one of certain items like a hair brush or tooth paste. One would think it is fairly easy to throw these items in a bag quickly upon being late. The truth of the matter is this takes a lot more time than most anticipate. Not only are you running all over the house to gather up all the items, you are taking time to think about what you need to pack and what you may have forgotten.

For females, you may want to rotate out your perfumes and accessories on a weekly basis. This will keep your look fresh and eliminate a trained view for peers who may link your red hoop earrings with you being late.

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    • jaybird22 profile image
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      jaybird22 5 years ago from New York

      I agree, planning things in advance definitely helps! I use the calandar on my cell to schedule and plan my events. Because I never go anywhere without my cell phone,this makes it easy for me to remember my events/tasks because my phone alerts me. I like how I can set alerts for hours, days, and even a week in advance. This keeps me on schedule.

      Thanks for your comments Katrine ;-)

    • profile image

      KatrineDalMonte 5 years ago

      This is a good hub on a popular topic. Mastering the time management is important for the sake of accomplishing one's tasks. Planning is priceless, it's so easy to slip onto the side road. Because I always have so many things going on I have to write down my tasks, otherwise it all just runs through my head. Having it on a piece of paper helps me concentrate more and be more efficient.