14 ways to redeem yourself when you’re always running late

There’s always someone in every family or friend group: the “always late” individual.

Is it you?

Time and time again, despite your best efforts, you’re always running minutes to an hour behind.

It’s simply not okay to inconvenience people you’re meeting up with. And even if you’re not on your way to see others, you don’t want to rush yourself when you’ve run out of time.

What gives? Maybe you know why or maybe you have no idea the cause. Regardless, the time is now to start implementing these strategies so you can be on time. 

1) Identify the cause

Why are you always running late?

Knowing the reason (or reasons if there are several) can help you prevent it in the future.

Reasons for why you’re always running late might include:

  • You have poor time management.
  • You are easily distracted.
  • You overextend yourself.
  • You’re strapped thin and have too much to do with no support from others. 
  • You’re overwhelmed.
  • You’re not good about checking the time.
  • You don’t have any clocks around the house.
  • You suffer from social anxiety.
  • You just take long to get ready (due to makeup application, hair styling, etc.).
  • You have too many rituals before you have to leave. 
  • You feel like you don’t have anything to wear.
  • You simply prioritize your needs over others.

Once you identify the key things holding you back, you can craft a plan… 

2) Plan and prioritize

Planning on not being late is not just an idea or goal. It’s about taking action. 

Follow these three steps to plan and prioritize:

  • Step 1: Identify your arrival time. When do you need to be at your final destination? You’ll be planning around this target so that’s where you need to start.
  • Step 2: Create a to-do list of things you need to accomplish before you leave. For each item on the list, consider time estimates for how long it’ll take to complete.
  • Step 3: Prioritize the things on that list. What are the most important things to do? Add a star next to each. If you are running low on time, skip the things without a star.
  • Step 4: Decide on the time you have to leave your house. This is a crucial part of the process. Give yourself enough time to get from point A to point B.

3) Estimate how long tasks take.

Also mentioned above in your ideal process, estimating how long each tasks will take you will require skill.

If you truly want to work on being more punctual, start with being honest with yourself on timing.

You might also want to consider giving yourself a buffer.

4) Always give yourself a time buffer.

Whether you’re keeping it real about the timing of your tasks or not, there are always going to be unexpected issues that may slow you down.

Maybe your hairdryer breaks, your Uber gets lost, or there’s traffic.

Give yourself a buffer (like 10 to 15 minutes) before you have to leave just in case.

5) Prepare things in advance.

ways to redeem yourself when youre always running late 1 14 ways to redeem yourself when you're always running late

If there are things on your to-do list that can be completed a different day or well in advance, do that.

While punctual people can run through their schedules like pros, you’re not there yet.

You’ll need to knock things off your list ahead of time in order to set yourself up for success. 

Not sure what to do ahead of time? Here are some ideas:

  • Get your nails done earlier in the week.
  • Pick out your outfit (and try it on) the night before.
  • Pack your bag hours in advance.
  • Buy the hostess’ gift a week ahead (if not perishable). Or better yet, have it delivered to her house. 

6) Schedule an alarm (or two). 

Sticking with your to-do list will only work if you give yourself reminders when to start and when to move from step to step. 

Use your phone, and make it ding!

7) Set expectations for yourself. 

Despite your best efforts, be honest with yourself. 

When that alarm goes off, will it put pep in your step. If it won’t, think of another type of alert or solution to keep you on track.

8) Practice better time management habits in general. 

Improving your time management skills overall will also be instrumental at redeeming yourself.

If you incorporate timeliness for other parts of your life, you’ll create better habits for yourself. 

9) Communicate to people you are meeting up with.

Let’s be real, you may not master these skills overnight. That’s okay. 

But, the minute you know you’re going to be late for an event, let people know. Send a quick text with your ETA so they know what to expect.

10) Don’t lie about your ETA.

Ha! See, I knew you’ve done this before. Here’s a friendly reminder to be honest with the people affected by your lateness.

If you lie about when you’ll arrive, you’ll be inconveniencing them more than being simply late with zero communication. 

Don’t give people the emotional roller coaster of your arrival. Just be honest, and say sorry while you’re at it.

11) Apologize to people you inconvenience with your tardiness. 

A sincere “I’m sorry” will go a long way.

You might even want to provide a valid reason why. Hopefully, your social circle will be understanding.

12) Tell people not to wait for you.

When you communicate your ETA and apologize, don’t forget to also be courteous.

Make sure you tell your people not to wait for you. It’s your fault that you’re late. Why do other people have to pay the price?

Tell them to eat without you, or you’ll meet them where they are at whatever your arrival time is going to be.

Think of others… 

13) Force yourself to be punctual for really important events and commitments.

And while you’re at it, make it a point to be on time for the most important events on your calendar.

You should never be late for events like:

  • Weddings
  • Baptisms and other religious events
  • Job interviews
  • Business meetings
  • Surprise birthday parties
  • Funerals and memorial services
  • Graduations
  • Plane, train, and bus departures 
  • Court appearances
  • Concerts and plays that you’ve really been looking forward to

14) Learn from the punctual people in your life. 

Do you have good influences in your life who are consistently on time?

Ask them about their tricks. What can you try that works for them?

Spending time with the punctual people you know will also motivate you. If they’re always on time, you should be too.

You’ll naturally improve by association if you learn from the best

Consequences to your tardy ways

Now that you have these simple strategies to follow, think you have what it takes to get better?

If you don’t improve, there are consequences, such as:

  • You’re inconveniencing other people.
  • Other people will be less likely to invite you to outings.
  • People might think you don’t care about them.
  • You’ll miss out on opportunities.
  • You’ll miss deadlines.
  • You’ll give others a bad impression. 
  • You’ll tarnish your reputation and credibility. 
  • Things can spiral and you’ll be even later.

Remember, the most important thing is to hold yourself accountable.

Only you can fix this. Only you can redeem yourself. Recognize that you should respect other people’s time, not just your own.

Picture of Ysolt Usigan Schmidt

Ysolt Usigan Schmidt

Ysolt Usigan is a lifestyle writer and editor with 15+ years of experience working in digital media. She has created share-worthy content for publishers WomansDay.com, Shape, WhatToExpect, CafeMom, TODAY, CBSNews, HuffingtonPost, TheBump, Health Magazine, and AskMen. A working mom of two, her editorial expertise in relationships, spirituality, mental wellness, shopping, and home are rooted in her everyday life.

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