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13 Must-Steal Habits of People Who Are Always On Time

Sorry, but "just 10 minutes late" is still late. Adopt the habits of these punctual people to never stress about your ETA again.

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They have a daily calendar—and use it every day

Being on time starts with the second you wake up, even if your commitments are later in the day, says Amy Benton, owner of Thrive Lifecoaching and a confessed “reformed habitually late person.” “For me the key is planning my day. I look at my calendar for the day and make a mental note of what is happening and in what order,” she explains. “Then I think through each step and decide what I need to prepare now to get all of that done.” Referring back to her calendar throughout the day has helped her increase her productivity and live with more peace and less chaos, she adds. Calendaring is also a top tip of professional organizers—use their tips to get started.

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They build in buffers

“People who are always on time create a realistic time frame for themselves and then give themselves an extra buffer,” says Sharon Stokes, Life Fulfillment Coach and Creator of The Life Map. People who are chronically late tend to underestimate the time they need to do things. Punctual folks do the same thing—but they recognize that they do it and plan for the unexpected by giving themselves a few more minutes. (Hint: Here are easy ways to find more time in your day.)

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They know how to say no

It’s simply impossible to be on time if you’ve committed to doing too many things. Yet over-scheduling feels like one of those modern ills we all just put up with. It doesn’t have to be this way, says Chantel Cohen, LCSW, a certified business coach, and the solution is simple: Learn to say no. “If punctuality is important to you, do not try to cram too much into your day. Know your limits of what you can reasonably do and stick to it,” she adds. If saying no feels rude to you, try these empowering strategies to say no.

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They do only what they enjoy

Being late for something may be your brain’s subtle way of saying it really doesn’t want to do it. But being late doesn’t get you out of a dreaded obligation, it simply makes it even more uncomfortable because now you’re adding tardiness to the other bad feelings. The solution? Only commit to doing what you really want to do. “In our social lives, we have so many opportunities to have dates, happy hours, and join meet-ups, so don’t commit to the ones that don’t sound interesting or unique or won’t serve your highest good,” explains Nina Rubin, MA, gestalt life coach and owner of AfterDefeat coaching. Less busywork means more time for what will really help you get ahead—like these things successful people do every weekend.

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They plan beyond drive time

Many chronically late people see the “estimated travel time” on their GPS and think that’s the time it will take them to actually get somewhere, but there’s a lot more to arriving on time than just getting from point A to point B, Benton says. In addition to knowing where you have to go and how long it will take to drive there, consider other time-consuming factors like what things you need to bring, if you’ll need to find parking, how long it will take to walk into the place, if you’ve ever been to the location before, and traffic. “Now, take that new number, add 5 to 10 minutes for unexpected surprises, and make that your ‘travel time,'” Benton says. Just make sure you’re not still using any of these popular travel tips that are no longer true!

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They are masters of the alarm

Cell phones can slow you down if you’re absorbed in your Facebook feed or texting, but there are plenty of apps to help you manage your time better. Start with the most simple: Your phone alarm. “Don’t set the alarm for the time you need to be there, set your alarm for the time you need to be in the car with the keys in the ignition,” Benton says. And most phones will allow you to set an extra “warning” alert, letting you know 10 to 30 minutes before the alarm so you can do last minute stuff like find your keys and grab your water bottle. Does the thought of all those alarms stress you out? Try these stress-management tips to find your calm.

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They’re clear on their priorities

How many times have you ended up late because you got caught up in something menial? It’s not that you really believe your doctor’s appointment is less important than finishing your laundry, but that you failed to prioritize your tasks, Stokes says. “People who are on time know how to ditch the things that aren’t as important so they aren’t late. They’re able to let go and step back from sending that email or waiting in line for that coffee so it doesn’t interfere with them getting to where they need to be on time,” she explains.

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They follow travel updates

Traffic, delayed flights, and subway malfunctions are hard to plan for—but not impossible. It’s time to use your tech and sign up for alerts for your different travel routes, Stokes says. And always have a backup plan. Some apps will do this for you automatically. For instance, Google Maps will find the fastest route to your destination and allows you to turn on notifications for accidents and delays. Waze is a GPS app that crowd-sources information about accidents, delays and even things like potholes and police along your route. To make your drive even better, follow these tips to make your commute more relaxing and less stressful.

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They think on their feet

“Just because certain people are always on time doesn’t mean they aren’t ever running late—they just know how to make up the time en route!” Stokes says. This means knowing when it’s worth the money to take a cab instead of walking or looking for shortcuts along normal routes. If you want to enhance your mental acuity, try these weird brain exercises proven to improve your cognitive abilities.

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They have a plan

“People who are always on time make a plan to be on time,” Cohen says. “Stop hoping that you are going to make it to your meeting on time—hope is not a strategy!” Instead, look at things that routinely make you late and come up with solutions you can implement in advance. For instance, if you’re always late in the morning because you’re scrambling to grab something to eat, plan some breakfast dishes you can make the night before and then grab and go in the a.m. Not a chef? No worries, our super speedy make-ahead oatmeal recipe is foolproof!

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They respect routines

Having a solid routine is a key to being on time, Cohen says. Routines help you become more efficient by taking the thought and decision-making out of every step. Instead of agonizing over your outfit, scrounging through the fridge for lunch, and hunting for your car keys every day, make a nightly routine to lay out your outfit, pack your lunch, and always put your keys in the same spot.

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They limit multitasking

Punctual people have a reputation for being able to do everything at once but it turns out their secret may be exactly the opposite, Rubin says. “People who are on time don’t usually multitask. They are hyper-focused and use blocks of time to start, work on, or complete tasks,” she says. “For example, they will respond to emails for blocks of time, rather than piecemeal, in order to satisfy productivity.”

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They value punctuality

Are you late no matter how hard you try? Here’s a simple truth: If being on time isn’t important to you then you’ll probably be late a lot, says Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and author of The Popular Man. It’s harsh but making a mental shift may be exactly what you need to break your lateness habit. “I’ve found that people who are consistently on time usually consider it a core value,” he says. “They believe that an agreement to arrive at a certain time is an important commitment that they don’t want to break. As a result, they put in the time, effort, and planning to be consistent with their word and not arrive late.” Bottom line? If it’s important to you then you will find a way to not be late. Start with these time management tips of highly successful people.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.