photo by Kori Stanton
“In LA, you’re either early, or you’re late. There really is no such thing as on time,” said a friend a few nights ago en route to dinner. It a was a Thursday night in LA and we were coordinating a four person carpool to arrive at a 7:30pm chef’s table reservation. We were meeting four other friends and had been warned that we needed to arrive on time, or we’d forgo this coveted spot. Essentially, if we showed up late, we’d be making real asses of ourselves in front of colleagues and the head chef. Although we left with plenty of time to spare, a full 20 minutes earlier than planned, the rush hour traffic was worse than our (occasionally) trustworthy GPS could predict. Halfway to our destination, we all panicked as the arrival estimate passed the 7:30 marker. 7:32 arrival. 7:33 arrival. To beat the system we increased our speed, threw in a few California stops, weaved around corners and yelled really loudly at Waze. I wouldn’t call it reckless, but it was a heightened state of anxiety for all. When we finally pulled in totally flustered at about 7:34, we were forced to valet, but we made it just in time to flag down the rest of the party. We were seated. We knocked down a litre of Saki, some of the best sushi I’ve had since I’ve lived here, and no one was the wiser. But it got me thinking. Were we on time because we made it? Or were we late? The truth is, we were late.
Maybe it doesn’t seem like a big deal, what is a few minutes after all? But the 2o minutes in the car was really frustrating, and could have been avoided. I don’t think anyone should feel pressured to drive erratically or deal with the anxiety of trying to make it on time. On the other hand, I find myself in this situation more often than I’d like to admit. I had to ask myself, why does this keep happening? There has to be a way to prevent tardiness and tardiness anxiety. And so, I’ve spent the past week doing the research and finding answers. I’ve come up with a list of 6 tested strategies for being on time once and for all.
The first 3 timely tips come from my dear husband Jeff, who prides himself on his punctuality. Rarely late and admirably reliable, I had to ask him his secrets. Here’s deal:
IMPLEMENT THE 1/2 HOUR BUFFER RULE Your GPS tells you it’s only 30 minutes away, but you know that’s a best case scenario. Why do you keep playing this game? ‘What can happen in 30 minutes?” you ask yourself, pushing away that inner voice that’s screaming “YOU KNOW WHAT CAN HAPPEN!” A dog runs out of the house, a phone call stops you in your tracks, a traffic jam happens when you’re two minutes from your destination, Waze takes you on an unfortunate tour of downtown. Oops, late again. You do know what can happen. And so says Jeff, “I use the 1/2 hour buffer rule. I always leave a full half hour before I am supposed to leave so I have a little breathing room. If I get to my destination early, I can do a quick meditation or more likely catch up on phone calls and emails.” Point, husband.
WEAR A WATCH // SET IT AHEAD: “My watch is always set ten minutes ahead,” says Jeff. This one I can appreciate because I always wear a watch in client sessions. Having that extra ten minutes is a little buffer to make sure I wrap up on time and don’t over extend my welcome. Clean up typically takes longer than we think, so it’s been a game changer for making sure I don’t run over. I don’t want to be that person who’s always running around apologizing for being late. We all know that person…
“There’s danger if I dare to stop and here’s the reason why…
No time to say ‘goodbye,’ Hello, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.”
– The White Rabbit
CHANGE YOUR SCHEDULED ARRIVAL TIME If you have an iPhone or mobile device that uses a calendar system for appointments, events and other commitments, think about always subtracting 15 to 30 min before you input your appointment time. For example, if you adding a 3:30 haircut to your calendar, and you know you have a tendency to be late, schedule it instead for 3:15. My husband started playing this trick on me, by giving me an earlier start time and though it initially pissed me off, I’ve gotta say, it works because we are rarely late. It’s particularly effective because I could spend hours getting ready for an event, but very rarely do I need to.
SET A SLEEP ALARM I know captain obvious here, telling you to get more sleep, but this one really works. One of the main causes for tardiness stems from a lack of sleep. The habit filters though your whole day as well, because a lack of energy effects everything you do. If your mind is slow, distracted, and unfocused, your body responds with reduced acuity. A good habit that I discovered this week was setting a sleep alarm that tells me when it’s time to shut it down. At 11:45, my phone rings and literally says, ‘Shut it Down’. Because I know I need 8-10 hours of sleep to be totally functional, the alarm is set to go off every night at the same time. Before the alarm I found myself easily distracted by emails, Instagram and a Sopranos marathon that kept me up as late as 2am. I’d wake up and hit the alarm multiple times and roll out at the last minute. Without a conscious plan for how many hours of sleep I need, my mornings felt tortured, and my days sluggish. The sleep alarm really saves me from myself and creates a parameter for being responsible. With plenty of sleep, I have one less excuse for being late.
PLAN YOUR DAY THE NIGHT BEFORE This is a pro organizer trick that anyone can a implement with little effort. Because I am not a morning person, this habit is key to my confidence about the day ahead. Every night before going to sleep, I create a plan for the following day. A to do list helps me feel in control, rather than anxious about all I have to do. Thinking about what I need the following day, also helps avoid early morning stress. The simple acts of prepping breakfast and making my lunch are two ways I make myself feel more prepared and less anxious in the morning. I also like to think about the supplies I will need and make sure I’m packed so last minute scrambling is a thing of the past.
PUT YOUR ALARM OUT OF REACH This tip comes from etiquette expert Diane Gottsman. While doing research on this topic, I stumbled upon this article from Real Simple Magazine. It’s a very simple tweak to your daily routine, but “Physically moving out of bed to turn your alarm off is a surefire way to get out of bed – and not crawl back in.”
When you live in a huge metropolis like LA, traffic, accidents, unreliable GPS systems, and primping spouses can contribute to that perpetual cycle of tardiness. When excuses abound, it is very easy for tardiness to become a habit. Many of us have come to accept and expect this bad behavior. But most of us really hate when others are late. The truth is, it is incredibly rude and disrespectful to show up late, even when you have an excuse. I’m sorry if I am hitting you with a truth bomb here, but I have had to learn this myself, because I am not guilt free in this area. I am really ashamed to admit that I showed up half an hour late to my Esthetician last week, for the second time. As a professional organizer, I know this is an unacceptable habit. Thankfully, I am now making a conscious effort to respect myself and others with a few tricks up my sleeve.
Obviously I don’t expect you to implement all of these strategies at once. And I should note, that arriving early don’t mean you need to go in early. It’s equally as rude to make someone else feel pressured to accommodate you. As Jeff said, when you start arriving early, use this new habit to your advantage. Bring a book to read, clean out your car, work on your to-do list, close your eyes and do a meditation, pray, grab a coffee or go for walk. Remember that good habits make a good life, and more you take ownership of your habits, the easier life becomes.
Because we all know someone like the White Rabbit who’s always running late, let’s take this opportunity to learn a few tricks and avoid the rabbit hole.