woman stressed being late

Nothing can get your day off to a worse start then showing up late. Whether it's work, an appointment, a family commitment, or a social engagement, arriving behind schedule can throw your plans into a downward spiral, cause friction in relationships, and damage your credibility with employers and loved ones. Any of these outcomes is a sure recipe for creating unnecessary stress in your life.

Everyone is late once in a while. The occasional conspiring forces of weather problems, traffic delays, and other factors outside of your control can cause unexpected hiccups in your routine, rendering your best attempts at punctuality useless. But if you find yourself arriving late often and for no good reason, it's time to put a stop to this stress-inducing habit. Consider the following strategies to help get your timing back on track.

1. Find the conflict.
It's often said that if you're chronically late, there's a conflict between where you're supposed to be and where you want to be. Look at the situations in which you find yourself running late and notice if there's a pattern.

Are you always late meeting a certain friend, but punctual as clockwork at the office? Do you make it on time to your tennis group, but somehow always miss the first 10 minutes of your volunteer position? If your tardiness can be linked to certain activities, you might want to investigate what's behind your reluctance to arrive on time.

Perhaps the friend is one you're no longer comfortable with and it's time to move on from the relationship. Maybe the volunteer commitment is something you were persuaded to take on, but don't really have the extra energy for right now. If you can get to the bottom of your feelings, you'll be in a better position to figure out how to make adjustments to your activities and change or eliminate those that aren't working for you.

2. Prepare in advance.
In some situations, you may not be able to eliminate commitments so easily. For example, you may have identified a conflict between wanting to stay home and going to work, but you need the income and can't quit. In cases like this, one way to help get out the door sooner is to prepare in advance.

If you're due to work or have an appointment at 9 a.m., don't wait until morning to get everything ready. There are many things you can do the night before to reduce frantic scrambling and launch your day more peacefully. Evening preparations for a morning meeting could include:

  • Choosing the clothes you'll wear and ironing them if needed
  • Packing your bag or briefcase with everything you'll need to take with you
  • Preparing breakfast and lunch for yourself or other family members ahead of time so you can "grab and go"
  • Getting your workout gear ready if you're planning a trip to the gym

3. Reward yourself.
Sometimes you might need an extra incentive to motivate you to get things done. If lateness is causing you stress and worry, why not try offering yourself a reward for turning your timing around?

Think of something that you've been wanting, whether it's a night out at the movies, an uninterrupted soak in the tub, or indulging your sweet tooth. Then tell yourself that if you're on time to your engagements every day this week, you'll splurge and get your treat.