How to Be Early…When You Are Perpetually Late

You leave things to the last minute, find yourself at every red light on your route to work, never have enough time to eat breakfast or comb your hair, and you are perpetually late. Friends and co-workers expect it from you and your boss (if you’re so lucky) tolerates it on the basis of the entertaining excuses you come up with.

Running late sucks and it’s mighty embarrassing to show up last. You admire the person who arrives polished and early, coffee in hand and wonder just how they do it. It’s not magic; it takes effort, forethought and a genuine desire to be on time to do it.

While genetics and upbringing certainly have an impact on your ability to use time productively, they are not the “be all end all”. As much as I adore my parents, they are forever late. I have grown to accept it, but relatives and co-workers alike have started telling them dinner starts an hour earlier than the true time. Sneaky? Yes. Functional? Absolutely.

Remember the Golden Rule

Organized people prioritize and focus on being prompt. Not only do colleagues and their career depend on this, but it is the best way to show others ‘Hey! I’m on the ball’. When you arrive late you are basically saying to someone that you do not respect them or that their time is just as valuable as yours.

I always find myself running five minutes behind and am so fed up with forever fretting about finding parking, racing to make it and coming up with excuses to appease my boss, friend or colleague. Some people consider one minute after the designated time late — but you know when you’re late, and that sinking feeling doesn’t sit well.

So how does one alter this behavior for the better? Truth be told, it takes 21 days to change a habit. Set four separate alarms and get in the routine of waking at 7 am every day so you don’t oversleep Monday’s 9 am meeting. It is essential to plan your route prior to leaving for a scheduled appointment. This means incorporating and expecting traffic delays, catching every single red light and finding zero parking nearby and still managing to arrive on time.

Another option is to ask an “early bird” friend to give you a morning wake-up call. Even if you are long past the teenage years, having someone ‘mommy’ you long enough for you to get your act in gear may be the kick start you need! Friends are fantastic for giving blunt advice. Just ask your friend what trick they use to arrive early.

Enjoy the Perks

Reward yourself! Being the first person at the office has a refreshing and vitalizing feel. Not only do you feel composed and ready to take on the world, but you get to chuckle at the late people fumbling with their briefcase, coffee, and paperwork as they race to prepare for the day. I get a kick out of making to-do lists — limiting myself to six tasks. Why six? It’s been said that six is the maximum number of things a person can retain at any given time.

Setting your clocks ahead by 5 or ten minutes can help create a buffer. If it’s better for you to visualize a benefit of arriving on time, think of work as a celebration of your merit. If you weighed as heavily on the importance of arriving early to work as you would to accept a fat cheque or scholarship, chances are you’d be there with bells on.

Be your own mentor

Rushed folks race around looking stern and self-important. It doesn’t exactly radiate a ‘come chat with me’ kind of vibe. Colleagues appreciate and prefer to work with level-headed peers. And bosses certainly notice who’s able to maintain their composure under pressure. When it comes to setting deadlines, those who recognize that a task takes double and a half the time you might expect, will find themselves most effective.

Slip on your boss’s shoes. Would you prefer to choose the ‘early’ person who meets deadlines or somewhat of a mixed bag as an employee? Give your peers and supervisors only good things to say about you. Communication is imperative if you are running late. It shows respect if you call or email (as embarrassing as being late can be) to admit your fault and accept responsibility. People can expect the worst, and giving them the consideration makes your lack of punctuality slightly less offensive.

Value your professional image

Your career is what you spend the majority of your time doing, so it is imperative that you do it well. Purchase a sizable day-planner that can help you accurately outline your daily tasks and actually use it. Mine does wonders as a vault filled with contacts, emails and deadlines, and I would be simply lost without it. Punctuality is the number one thing you can accomplish to allow people to perceive you as effortlessly composed, organized and resourceful.

Become the person you admire, if only so someone else can consider you a role model.


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Breanna is an Applied Communications Graduate currently residing in Vancouver B.C. She has taken her communication skills to a new domain and is testing the waters of teaching driving while writing and dog walking in her spare time.


  1. Wasim Ismail on the 12th January

    True surely the early bird Does get the get the best.

  2. TrafficColeman on the 12th January

    Write down your schedule and stick to it, this is how I’m allays on time and the reason why I get things done…time management..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  3. SteveC on the 12th January

    “Always turn up early, there might be doughnuts!”
    (there very rarely are but you wouldn’t want to miss out)

    For work based meetings I use Outlook (‘cos that’s what they give us at work).
    Set the alarm for 15 minutes as a default. When it goes off, hit snooze and start to ‘park’ what you’re doing now. When the reminder goes off with five minutes to go, leave your desk and go to the meeting. Obviously you need to adjust these timings if your meeting is further away than mine our (we’re all in one building now).
    And take something to read or work on while you’re waiting for everyone else to turn up!


  4. Thekla Richter on the 12th January

    Accept that minor unpredictable things happen a lot of the time on your way to getting somewhere Thus, you really need to accept that you don’t consistently arrive somewhere at a specific time on the dot… that kind of precision isn’t possible….but that you typically arrive during a range, say of 10 minutes (actual amount depends on the length of the trip, how much traffic variability is common, whether you have kids who can impact your getting out the door promptly, etc).

    If you make exactly on time the early end of your range, you’ll be on time only rarely… usually you’ll be late. If you make on time the middle of your range, you’ll be on time some of the time and a little late others. Instead, make “on time” the late end of your expected range and have a plan as to what you’ll do with your buffer time. That way, even if you run a bit late, most of the time it doesn’t matter.

    • Breanna Carey on the 17th January

      Thekla you are totally right! It’s Murphy’s law that if you are running late, everything else will fall apart too. Having a ‘time spectrum’ in mind really helps to highlight the perks of preparation and consequently, arriving on time. I appreciate you bringing this up!

  5. Bryce Christiansen on the 12th January

    Great thoughts on being early. I always have a deep fear of being late, so these tips were great.

    The fact that you don’t have to worry about the added stress of being late, makes up for the extra effort of being early.

  6. Jennifer Brown Banks on the 12th January

    Bravo! As someone who’s very prompt, I can attest that waiting for others can be really frustrating and a time suck. 🙂 As you said, it boils down to respecting folks’ time. Well written and much needed post.

    • Breanna Carey on the 17th January

      Thanks Jennifer! I’m glad you can agree with that point!

  7. Robert German on the 12th January

    nice article – I think this is an oft-overlooked subject.

    I like the fact you put logic behind your to-do list. I agree it should be small and manageable, but I’m not quite sure about the 6 item rule. You make a list so you don’t have to remember it all in your head, right? That said, I like to keep my to-do under 6 if at all possible…much less overwhelming.

    • Breanna Carey on the 17th January

      Robert- you are absolutely right, writing your ‘to-do’s’ down leaves room in your brain for other things, and alleviates some stress to boot!

  8. Debbie B. on the 12th January

    When faced with a new starting time, I always set my alarm ridiculously early to see how early I arrive. Then, as time goes by, I can make adjustments and set the alarm a little later each day until I’m only arriving 10-15 minutes early. It’s easier to make the change to sleeping later than to have to get up earlier!

    • Breanna Carey on the 17th January

      I really like that idea Debbie. I am the type that sets 4 alarms, just so one actually wakes me up. Having that added buffer of being up earlier than you need is a wonderful tip and i love the reward of getting to snooze a bit longer.

  9. Angelee on the 13th January

    People are adapting any ways that work for them to get up and start a day early. Basically, its just self-discipline.

  10. Bryan Thompson on the 13th January

    Breanna, excellent post! I must admit, I am one of those perpetually late people. I am making some changes to not be that way.

    I have a friend who is a lawyer in Oklahoma City, and he arrives 2 hours before anyone else in the morning. Turns out, he has written tons of books and had some amazing writing opportunities simply because he gets to his office early.

    There are definite benefits. Thank you for helping people like me with this post. 🙂

    • Breanna Carey on the 17th January

      Hi Bryan,

      Thank-you for your kind words, I’m an avid reader of your posts, so I take this to heart and am happy it is useful for you.

    • Bryan Thompson on the 18th January

      Breanna, I’m very flattered. Thank you for the kind words!

  11. xsid on the 29th January

    yah thats the article for me. i have a question.
    how can getting up early helps in your personal or mental development. cos i have to go to my work at 11am , and i always have a bad feeling when i get up at 10. i reach there on time but always have a feeling tht i lost a major portion of the day. what should i do? what motivates me for getting up early?

    • Breanna on the 7th February

      hi xsid!

      Thanks for your query. I have the same issue. My day doesn’t officially start until noon, but I feel cheated if I don’t get up around 8 or 9 and seize the day. One thing that may motivate you is using the time to work-out. Consider waking 3 or 4 hours before your work starts and utilize the time to run errands, exercise (gyms are quiet after 9am) or even prepare your meals for the day. It will take a bit to adjust to waking early, but your body will want to go to sleep sooner after a few weeks of consistency. I don’t doubt that you would feel like that given that u wake up and have to go right to work. Give yourself some ‘ME’ time in the a.m. Another option-if your job permits- is to take on a side project that you need to do outside of work. It would have to be something you enjoy. Volunteering is a selfless and fantastic way to feel useful and energetic about utilizing your time wisely. Hope these help! All the best.

  12. xsid on the 8th February

    yah Breanna.
    yah volunteering is a very usefull way tht can keep me motivated.
    i am looking for some NGO’s here in pakistan tht i can work for.
    thanks you.

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