How to Actually Be On Time, As Told By Someone Who is Always Early

Punctuality is something that a lot of people struggle with.  I spent much of my formative years constantly running late. I have vivid memories of my mom screaming “WE NEED TO GO!” as I got ready for school upstairs (thankfully I didn’t take the bus and could afford to leave the house later than a lot of my classmates).  That all changed when I was a junior in high school and got my first part-time job. I had (and still have) a paralyzing fear of being fired, which translated to a sudden urgency to get to work on time. That urgency soon spread to other places I had to be, and now I’m early so often that I’ve become an expert in how to kill time (tip: always keep a book in your car and locate the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks to places you frequent).  If you’re looking to actually be on time for once, here’s my advice:

Use the “Time and a Half” Rule When Planning Your Commute

Getting to point A to point B should be simple, but oftentimes it's not.  There are many factors that could impede upon your commute, such as traffic, road closures, and being stuck behind a person who drives 15 MPH.  That’s why you should always multiply your estimated travel time by 1.5. For example, if you have to be somewhere at 3 pm and the GPS says it’s a 20-minute drive; you’d probably resolve to leave by 2:40; however, you should really plan to leave by 2:30.  Under the time-and-a-half rule, you should allow yourself 30 minutes for a 20-minute drive. An easy way to do this calculation is to half the amount of time the GPS says it takes to drive somewhere (for a 20-minute drive, that’s 10 minutes), and add it to that estimated drive time (20+10=30, so you should leave 30 minutes beforehand).  It may seem to be overkill at first, but it will prove a good idea when that 20-minute drive becomes a 27-minute drive because you got caught behind someone who was texting and driving (pleeease don’t text and drive). 

Give Yourself Time to Get Ready

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you should be rolling out of bed well before you’re supposed to leave.  You can tell yourself that you can shower, dress, and do your makeup in 45 minutes, but in reality you’ll probably end up getting sidetracked by scrolling through social media and changing your outfit 3 times because you realized that the shirt you were planning on wearing does not go at all with those jeans (just me?).  Unless you’re willing to put a ton of effort into breaking your time-wasting habits, you should plan to wake up earlier to account for them. This means that yes if you take a long time to get ready, you should be up at least 2-3 hours before you need to leave. You may bemoan needing to wake up early, but believe me when I say that you will feel a thousand times calmer when you’re sitting in your towel scrolling through Instagram knowing that you don’t need to be out the door for another hour and a half. 

Pack Your Bag the Night Before

Growing up, my mom’s get-to-school-on-time mantra to me was “with the exception of your lunch, your backpack should be packed before bed”.  As a girl, I thought that my mom was just being neurotic and overbearing, but as an adult, I realize that there was actually some truth in what she was saying.  Packing your things (or more accurately, finding those things) can take up way more time than expected. As if scrambling to find a hair tie or pair of shoes wasn’t nerve-wracking enough, misplacing your wallet or textbook is effective at nearly stopping your heart.  When you gather everything you need the night before and put your bag by the door, you’ll breathe easier knowing that you didn’t waste 10 minutes looking for your water bottle.

Give Yourself a Few Minutes To Just Sit in Your Car

Does anyone really just climb into their car, put the key into the ignition, and drive off?  I didn’t think so. I need to get my car to a tolerable temperature by either cranking up the AC or the heat, get my audiobook or playlist up and running, and set up my phone GPS if I’m not confident about getting where I’m going before I can actually leave.  That can take an unprecedented amount of time--sometimes as much as 3-5 minutes if it’s especially cold or hot outside or I can’t pick which album to listen to. So allow yourself some time to just sit in your car before you leave so you can pick a radio station and text the friend you’re meeting that you’re leaving.  It seems minor, but not wasting minutes where you could be driving will make a major difference.