By Aakanksha Gupta (Weloquent)
As someone who is perpetually anxious, I have always been conscious about being on time - be it to eat breakfast, to meet work deadlines, or to hop on a call with a friend. But a few months ago, I realized the primary pitfall of my stress: I lost track of time while over-thinking or procrastinating, hence perpetually running behind schedule. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I was never able to start and end the day when and how I wanted to. This year threw me for a loop and like many people I know, I had to revise the way I worked and hence adapt a more punctual system of getting things done.
Below are three key strategies that helped me tackle tardiness:-
Specify Your Struggles
If you wonder why you’re always running late, take a step back to reflect on your habits. In the words of management consultant Diana DeLonzor, “The first step toward timeliness is self-awareness.” Identifying our hurdles makes it easier to jump over them! Ask yourself the following questions:-
Why is punctuality important to me? List out everything that would become easier for you if you had more time. Though our punctuality (or lack thereof) affects the people in our lives, it is for us to determine why we value time so that we can incorporate that understanding into our habits.
How do I feel when I’m running behind? Note down the emotions going through your mind and what you’re saying to yourself in those tough moments.
Am I late to everything or specific things? Look for patterns to understand where you struggle the most — you can write these down or even share them with someone you trust if you need support in holding yourself accountable.
What is causing me to be late? Once you know what holds you up, you can think about why. Below are examples of a few common situations that people face:-
My mind races at night, so I stay up and oversleep.
My five-minute phone scrolls turning into an hour.
I am indecisive about what to wear.
I’m always searching for the items I need, e.g. a notebook or laptop.
Track Your Time
After you’ve taken stock of your to-dos, estimate how long you think they will take and then time yourself using a stopwatch. Pay attention to each part of a task to determine what requires more time. Once you have calculated the actual time period for each task, ensure that you leave some wiggle room as it is better to have extra time between tasks than not enough.
Many chronically late people underestimate how long it takes them to do certain things (this is known as the planning fallacy), so it is important to be realistic and be kind to yourself.
A few months back, I was trying to figure out why it took me so long to start my work each morning. With practice, I was able to observe how long it took me to do each activity, to adjust, and hence begin on time. Here is the table I used to keep track:
Prepare for Promptness
A crucial aspect of being on time is creating habits that maximise efficiency. Think about the things that can be done in advance in order to prevent delays. Here are some ideas:
Prioritise your tasks and set alarms for 10-15 minutes before you have to start each one. This will help you focus on one thing at a time because multitasking is inefficient and unhealthy for your brain. As you try to switch between tasks, you may find it difficult to organise your thoughts, which not only delays you but also brings down the quality of your work.
Keep your stationary, notebooks, and textbooks on a tidy study desk.
Choose your outfit for the next day and hang it up or put it on a chair.
Create and follow a night-time routine so that you can de-stress and get to bed on time. Sleeping for 7-8 hours will help you feel fresh and maximise brain function the next day.
Though it can be challenging, it is indeed possible to take back your time and make the most of every single day. Good luck!