How to Stop Being Late for Work

Are you one of those people who are always running out of time and consistently late for work? Do you find you no longer know how to organize yourself or what you can do about it? In this article, we give you some simple tips you can start putting into practice immediately.
How to Stop Being Late for Work
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 29 August, 2023

Before going to bed, you prepare your things and set the alarm on your cell phone. Then, you mentally repeat to yourself that, in the morning, you’ll leave home on time. However, this is useless, because no matter how hard you try, you always fall behind. Does this sound like you? We’re going to give some basic guidelines to avoid being late for work.

Although chronic tardiness can be explained by several factors, such as personality traits or alterations in the perception of time, there’s still hope. Indeed, anyone can improve their punctuality via certain techniques and innovative behaviors.

Good planning will lead you to success as long as you commit to change. Here are some basic strategies.

You might also like to read Why Are You Always Late?

How to stop being late for work

The idea of being late for work is distressing. Sometimes, certain events beyond your control can make you late. Yet, some of us continually repeat this dynamic. A study conducted by the University of Washington (USA) states that this may be due to  ‘failures in prospective memory of time’.

This means there’s a distortion in your cognitive ability to remember and carry out future actions. You exhibit a type of bias that directly affects your planning abilities. It’s something rather annoying that you won’t necessarily even be aware of. Fortunately, you can employ new tools with which to train your brain to arrive at work on time. We’re going to explore them here.

1. Awareness and self-awareness

If you want to arrive on time, not only to work but to any appointment, you must first ask yourself what’s making you late.

  • Is it hard for you to get up?
  • Do you tend to miscalculate time?
  • Do you feel extremely unmotivated?
  • Do unexpected events always seem to happen?
  • Do you dedicate more time than necessary to your preparatory tasks?

Before carrying out a new plan to stop being late for work, you should carry out an introspection exercise. You need to become aware that you need a change and that it’ll positively affect your well-being.

2. Create a strategy and be conscientious

A conscientious individual is defined by their care and meticulousness. This personality trait, according to an article published in the Journal of Research in Personality, is linked to punctuality. So, how about you adopt this attitude and make an effective strategy from the following steps?

  • Calculate how many minutes it takes you to complete all your preparations.
  • Write down how long it takes you to get from home to work.
  • Include in this plan the possible appearance of unforeseen events.
  • Design your strategy based on this analysis.

Becoming aware of what factors tend to make you late for work will make it easier for you to better address them and correct them.

3. Get up early

The main problem you may have when it comes to getting to work on time is getting out of bed. If you don’t get up on time and something unforeseen happens, this increases the risk of you being late for work.

Therefore, you should try and avoid this happening. Set your alarm clock allowing yourself enough time to not have to leave in a hurry. For instance, how about giving yourself an extra half an hour or forty minutes?

4. Have your things ready the night before

If possible, try to prepare everything you need the night before. This will save you time and make it easier for you to leave the house with peace of mind. Also, so you don’t forget anything, write a list of everything you need to do in the morning.

5. Set your clocks back ten minutes and you’ll always have extra time

This is a simple strategy but it can be really effective. If you set all your clocks back about ten minutes, you’ll have a small time lapse in your favor. It’s a clever trick that may well save you from many difficult moments.

6. Keep transition activities in mind

Transition activities are those that arise when you move from one task to another. For example, you might get up, start to get dressed, and then realize that your clothes aren’t ironed. Or, you start to prepare breakfast and realize you’ve run out of coffee. Or, you reach the subway and discover that there’s been a breakdown.

When managing your time, you must take into account the fact that unforeseen events always arise at intermediate points between one activity and the next.

7. Use visualization the night before

The visualization technique consists of recreating in your mind a scenario, concept, or the carrying out of an activity. A study conducted by the University of Maastricht (Netherlands) states that this strategy is useful for carrying out tasks successfully. For example, it works for many athletes.

One strategy to prevent you from being late for work is, the night before, to visualize yourself carrying out all the necessary actions to arrive on time. This will allow you to integrate each necessary step.

8. Take advantage of apps

Technology is a great ally for enhancing your time management. There are some apps that can send you notifications and reminders to help you get up on time and get ready without rushing and without forgetting anything.

9. Define your ‘red flags’

What usually makes you late? Define your own red flags that tend to mediate your lateness. You may find that there’s a consistent problem behind it.

Do you work on your daily commute? While eating breakfast, do you get lost scrolling through your social media? Do you find yourself bumping into your neighbors and stopping to talk to them?

Internalize the idea that you have to arrive at work between 15 and 20 minutes early. This will reduce your stress and help you calmly start your day.

10. Rephrase what you say to yourself

When you get up in the morning and are trying to get to work on time, you may tell yourself “I have to be there at 9:00 sharp, my start time.” But, this is a mistake and will make you frequently fail in your goal. So, starting tomorrow, reformulate your words and say instead, “I have to get to work 20 minutes early”.

11. Beware of  having to hurry

It happens to all of us. As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, you put yourself on automatic pilot and tell yourself you must hurry up. But, the consequence of adopting a hasty approach is that you intensify your feelings of stress. As such, you start the day with an extra dose of cortisol, which isn’t appropriate.

In fact, being in a hurry will make you forget things. Then, you’ll have to retrace your steps to correct them, making you late. It’s far better to leave calmly and with time to spare. Planning is everything.

12. Beware of ‘that one more thing’

You’re just about to walk out the door and suddenly, you decide to leave something in the fridge for your son’s lunch. What’s more, you may think you have plenty of time and choose to fix something at home or write a message to a friend. But, bear in mind it’s that ‘one more thing’ that makes you late for work. 

13. Learn to say no

“Let’s have a coffee before you start work”. “Can you help me with this little job before you start?” If you have a friend, acquaintance, or relative who makes these kinds of requests, remember, they’ll make you late. You must learn to say no to everything that might slow you down.

14. Enjoy the pleasure of getting to work early

You might find it hard to believe, but getting to work early is rewarding. It allows you to start your tasks more calmly without being burdened by stress. It also helps you relax for a few minutes before you have to start work.

What’s more, if you arrive in plenty of time, you can better organize and plan your working day ahead.

15. Get in the habit of thinking about the future

If you don’t want to be late for work, start training your future thinking. Improve your planning skills to set goals and meet them. An article published in Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences states that episodic future thinking can improve multiple processes, including performance.

16. Monitor and track your progress

To be successful in any behavior or habit that you want to establish, you must evaluate yourself. You need to know if you’re progressing, detect where you’re failing, and what aspects you should improve. Feel free to analyze and track your progress. This will help you achieve your goal.

Ask for help

Sometimes, for various reasons, you find it difficult to arrive on time to work or any kind of appointment.

However, if you have persistent time management problems, there may be causes behind them that you need to understand. For instance, you may be stressed or worried. So, don’t hesitate to ask for specialized help if you need it.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.