long haired dog with fur flying backwards as he races along a dirt path

How To Be On Time

Do you continually find yourself running late despite your best intentions? Here’s how to make that a thing of the past. Side effects include improved friendships, feelings of being trustworthy and a decrease in overall stress.

Your appointment with Polly Punctual is at 11 am. She’s always understanding when you end up screeching into the parking lot on one wheel at 11:20, emerging from your car with a flurry of sincere apologies for your tardiness but lately she’s been sighing and her “that’s okay”s are feeling less heartfelt. You love spending time with Polly P., and vow to get there on time next time. How can you make sure this happens?

First, ask yourself if you’re resenting Polly P. for being uptight and rigid? You may be unconsciously sabotaging your efforts to get there on time because you feel controlled by a strict deadline. The five-year-old in all of us hates being told what to do. Is this a factor for you?

If you’re confident that’s not a factor, that you love spending time with Polly P. and want to show her you respect her time, here’s how to do it.

Know what time you want to arrive

Polly P. will be waiting for you at 11 a.m., your agreed upon meeting time. She’ll actually be there well before that but that’s on her.

Know how long it takes to get to your destination

Even if it’s somewhere you’ve been to a million times before, pull out your phone and use the built in navigation system (probably Google maps) to find out how long it’ll take. Notice that the routes they offer may be different than the way you usually go because of roadwork, accidents and other delays. This is a useful heads up for you on how much time it’ll take to get there today. In our example, it usually takes you 30 minutes to get to your destination and Google maps confirms it’ll take 30 minutes to get there.

Add fifteen minutes

Now add 15 minutes. Because Google doesn’t know everything and there’s no indication of things that might happen like:

  • finding yourself behind a piece of farm machinery that’s coasting along at a cool 18 mph,
  • a broken traffic signal that slows traffic to a crawl,
  • realizing you forgot your mask and have to go back for it,
  • arriving to find out the parking lot is full and you have to find a place on the street and walk to your meeting spot.

Plan for the trip to take 30 minutes plus that extra 15 minutes for a total of 45 minutes. Leave the house at 10:15 a.m.

But wait!

When you set off this early, your brain is going to start telling you it’d be easy to swing by the library drop off on the way. That taking a few minutes to chat with your neighbors as you pull out of your driveway is fine. That you definitely have time to pick up some coffee on the way there.

Don’t do it! The 15 minutes padding is for unforeseen delays. If you use it to squeeze in some extra errands, you’re going to lose that padding.

If you want to combine errands on the way, plan them out. Dropping off at the library takes you ten minutes out of your way. Stopping to chat is going to be at least five minutes. Getting coffee will be another 15 minutes by the time you’ve got in and out of the drive-thru. You just added 30 minutes to your schedule, so now plan to leave at 9:45 a.m.

That means any getting ready has to happen before 9:45.

  • Do you have enough gas?
  • Fill your water bottle and grab some snacks.
  • Check your hat and sunglasses are in the car.
  • Go use the bathroom.

Give yourself 30 minutes to set yourself up for success which means start getting ready at 9:15 a.m.

Which means you need to have finished breakfast by 9:15.

Which may in turn mean you’ll want to get to bed early enough the night before so that getting up, showering and eating breakfast isn’t a mad dash.

All this seems far removed from meeting Polly P. at 11 am tomorrow but time management is all about seeing how the effects of what you do now are going to affect things in the future.

What to do with your extra 15 minutes

Let’s say you decide to skip the errands and leave at 10:15 to meet Polly P. at 11. The roads are clear and you catch green lights all the way. You sail into the parking lot with your choice of spaces and check your watch. You’re early!

The temptation is going to be to pick up your phone and see what’s up with your email and Facebook. Don’t do it. Thirty minutes later, you’ll look up with a start to see Polly P. peering into your windscreen to see if you’re okay.

Get ready

Set your phone timer for a couple of minutes before 11 a.m. and then find your mask, apply sunscreen if you need to, put your phone and keys in your purse or your pocket and pick up that book of Polly’s you’ve been driving around for months.

Get present

Once you’ve got yourself situated, take a deep breath and prepare yourself to be present with Polly. Is she having medical issues or a big family crisis? She told you last time about the tomato plants she’s starting – remember to ask her how that’s going.  What do you want to be sure to share with her? What’s been on your heart and mind?

Taking these few moments to collect your thoughts helps you be the awesome friend you are. Instead of arriving flustered and apologetic, you’ll step out of your car when the timer rings, ready to enjoy the time with your dear friend Polly P.  And as you drive home, you’ll bask in the glory of your newfound time management skills, smiling fondly as you recall how much more relaxed and easygoing Polly Punctual was today.


  1. ‘Pad the time’ is a favorite phrase of mine when advising others but I’ll admit–I’m sometimes that person who tries to squeeze ‘one more thing’ in before I have to be somewhere. You break down the steps for your reader to easily follow. Love your running dog graphic!

  2. I love the way you describe the being on time process. It’s intuitive for me, but it’s not for everyone. I have one friend that is always on time. To her, being on time means arriving early so that no one has to wait for her. I like to be on time too, so sometimes when I’m meeting her, I’ll try to arrive earlier than her so that she doesn’t have to wait for anyone. She told me that she likes arriving first so that she can sit, read a bit, and gather her thoughts. I get it. And you also wrote about grounding yourself before “arriving.” It’s an important piece. I do this before my appointments with clients, but it’s also a great idea to do this before interacting with everyone.

  3. I often get derailed by thinking I can squeeze in one more little task at home. But then it takes longer than I think, and suddenly it is “after 11.” It always is more calming to arrive early. If nothing else, I can read or delete photos!

    1. And sometimes we get away with it, so we keep pushing the envelope! I have to stop myself “just” putting the laundry in the dryer on the way out. Since I go past the laundry room to the garage, it feels like I’m missing a chance to be uber efficient when I stop myself…


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