How to Never Be Late For Work or Anything Again

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I hate to be late. If I’m driving to a business meeting and get stuck in traffic, I whip myself into a frenzy, imagining the person on the other end checking their watch every two minutes and cursing me for having such little regard for their time.

On the other hand, when it comes to social engagements (parties in particular), I’ve had a bad reputation with my husband for being ready to leave many minutes beyond the designated departure time. I’d say, “I’ll be ready in ten minutes,’’ and 45 minutes later, I’m set to walk out the door. This has caused endless frustration (and a few fights), so I finally sat down and figured out why I could keep my appointments for paying clients, but not for parties. The answer — I was in time denial.

Time denial, at its bottom line, is an underestimation of the amount of time it will take to do something. That something can be preparing a report for your boss, writing a proposal for a potential client, driving into the office for your weekly catch-up meeting or getting dressed for a party. Basically, the amount of time you think it’s going to take to execute the action is longer in reality than the ideal plan you’ve cooked up in your mind.

While social time denial may annoy and frustrate your loved ones, business time denial can take a bite out of your personal productivity, impact your reputation with clients and co-workers and, in general, leave you a stressed-out mess.

Karen Southall Watts, who teaches entrepreneurship at Bellingham Technical College in Washington State, says that time denial can be especially challenging for those who work out of their homes.

Watts explains that in the normal course of the workday, company dwellers can count on predictable clues to help them mange their time. Lunch hour, regularly scheduled meetings, and designated breaks all form a boundary around which time can be planned. But for house dwellers (read: freelancers and telecommuters) it’s much easier to slip into the distraction of chores and lose track of time.

To get out of time denial requires making a more accurate assessment of the time needed to get somewhere or do something. To keep your train running on track, try these three solutions borrowed from my book, “Time Management In An Instant:”

  • Begin with the end in mind. If you want to figure out exactly how long it will take you to meet your deadline, work backward to calculate the steps. Working backward to calculate steps that need to be taken, and the time they will take, helps clarify exactly what needs to get done by when. For example: If you plan on arriving at the weekly sales meeting at 2 p.m., and you live 30 minutes away, departing at 1:30 p.m. sets you up for failure. Instead, do a more accurate assessment of what goes into traveling from your home office to your corporate one. Items such as meeting preparation time and changing out of your casual clothes and into work attire need to be taken into consideration.
  • Consider the worst-case scenario. A mind in time denial can soften and blur the realities of what it will take to get from A to B. Always plan a 10 percent time buffer for emergencies, changes and delays of game. For example: Traffic may be heavier than you imagined; you may have to do an unexpected, last-minute task; parking might prove more difficult than you expect; etc.
  • Don’t underestimate the little things. A lot of lateness occurs because insufficient attention was paid to the little things, especially those that connect one activity to the next. For example, as you are getting ready to leave, gathering together your wallet, purse, keys and directions all add time that needs to be accounted for.

As simple as these steps may seem, they can drastically cut down on the amount of drama in your day. So the next time you find yourself on the edge of cutting it too close to the clock, stop, stand back and step away from time denial — you’re sure to breath a sigh of relief when you show up on time.

Are you in time denial?

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