My great uncle is now deceased. But when he was alive, he knew about my habit of always being a few minutes late. This is something I inherited from my mother, or perhaps it is a just a learned behavior. In any case, it's something I need to overcome.
So my kindly uncle said to me, very gently, "Don't decide when you need to be somewhere, decide what time you need to leave the house and then make sure you're in the car."
This is wisdom I try to follow, even though my track record is far from perfect. If I can just get myself out of the house at a certain time, then punctuality will follow.
It's very important to be punctual, because it shows respect for other people's time. Being late, on the other hand, sends the message that your time is more important than theirs, so they can stand around and wait for a few minutes.
Although I really don't feel this way, this is a fault I still need to work on.
Play Some Tricks on Yourself
It's almost too easy and too obvious to mention. But setting your clock ahead 5, 10 or 15 minutes really does work. If nothing else, when you glance at it, and notice that you need to be in your car now, if you expect to be on time, it will get you moving, even though, in the back of your mind, you know you have a little leeway.
Sometimes, though, you'll actually forget you have a few more minutes left to finish your coffee or tea, or a little more time to kill before you need to spring into action.
One of the most effective ways I've found, which goes against my nature of tardiness, is to strive to be someplace early. I try to think of the advantages, and the fun things I can do, by arriving earlier than necessary. For instance, if you need to catch a plane, find a great book and reward yourself by getting to the airport early, and being able to reading the book, before you have to board. What will probably happen is that you end up reading only about a half hour, but at least you won't miss your flight.
Set a Timer for Yourself
One easy trick is to set a timer for yourself and vow to head out of your house the second it goes off. If you don't, then you know you're going to be late. Better yet, set your timer a few minutes ahead, and definitely leave when it goes off. This gives you a built-in cushion for those times you happen to find yourself stuck behind a school bus or, somehow, manage to hit every red light while driving to your destination.
People who are habitually late also have the bad habit of procrastination. One way to overcome this is to play the "Power of an Hour" game. This means that you pick a task and resolve to work on it for one hour without stopping or doing something else. Then, set the timer get busy. You'll be amazed at how much you get done.
That unpleasant task that you've been putting off is now more than halfway completed. The hardest part, which was just getting started, is already finished. So it's a downhill cruise the rest of the way.
Do All You Can the Night Before
This is another bit of advice that's so simple we tend to forget about it. But here's what I've found. You can get yourself out of the house in direct proportion to how much planning you do the night before. This includes making lunch, setting your clothes out and flossing your teeth. If you can't find a matching pair of socks, it's always better to discover this the night before, rather than when you're pressed for time.
For some reason, and it's probably just my imagination, these obstacles take much longer to resolve when you're trying to get out the door. At the very least, advance planning will allow you to start your day in a better frame of mind.
Sometimes, Fashionably Late is Okay
There is such a thing as being "fashionably late." Occasionally, this can be a good thing. Sometimes, when I've invited people to my home for dinner, I rush around at the last minute putting the finishing touches on the house and on the meal preparation. I don't know what I'd do if they actually arrived on time, because everything really isn't ready yet. So I'm greatly relieved if my guests are 10 to 15 minutes late.
Although punctuality is a virtue, I wouldn't recommend being early if you're the guest. Everyone is very busy nowadays. So your hosts may very well appreciate a few extra minutes (5 or 10) before having to answer the door. Just to be polite, call them to say you'll be a few minutes late. Then, instead, plan to be there on time, so you can get there when you say you will.