Zia Hassan

How To Be On Time

I’ve struggled with a number of organizational things in my life. When I was a kid, my backpack was a mess, and I never knew when anything was due, never studied for tests or quizzes and never knew when anything was happening.

I’ve addressed many of these issues through systems that I started building in college and continued building after I graduated. I write a lot about these systems in other posts. But one thing that I still struggle with is being on time.

I feel as if there are three main reasons for this:

  1. My family was late a lot when I was a child and I never experienced any kind of confrontation about this habit from any friends and family. Maybe it trained me to think that there are no consequences to being late.
  2. I can’t time things in my head properly. I sort of kind of have an idea of how long it will take me to get ready, then get to the car, then get on the road and drive to my destination. But a vague idea is not good enough for these purposes.
  3. I assume that being on time means I should arrive at the event start time.

When I got a new job two years ago, my success was based on my ability to show up on time and be reliable. So I needed a new set of internal rules. For those who are on time frequently, these rules will seem kind of obvious. But for the rest of us, it’s not obvious.

My solutions:

  1. I first had to accept that being late, even by a little, was probably affecting someone, somewhere. Even if the person I’m meeting or engaging with didn’t have anywhere else to be and anything else to do, waiting for me is going to be a waste of their time. And even if it’s 5 mins of downtime, then it’s really a waste, because starting a task in that short amount of time wouldn’t gain enough momentum to be efficient.
  2. I had to plan to leave super early. At least 30-45, preferably 60. Usually what happens is that some of that extra time is eaten up by something I forgot, or changing my shirt because it’s torn, or whatever. Another 10-15 might get eaten up by traffic. And in that case, I’m still early and I can sit and read a book while I wait. I remember saying to myself, probably better to assume that being on time actually means being early. Then I remembered that that’s actually a saying and conventional wisdom that I apparently never listened to.

Once I made both of these things a habit, I started getting to places on time. I’m rarely late anymore, and in fact, most of the time people are impressed that I’m sitting in the waiting room right before the appointment is supposed to start.

One of the biggest roadblocks I experienced with trying to be on time was the anxiety of getting to a location early. I figured it would feel like a waste of time. But realistically, that time buffer is eaten up most days. And on the days they’re not, I entertain myself while I’m waiting by writing a blog post or reading something on Medium.

And the result? Most of the people I work with see me as reliable. And that is 95% of the battle.