To Self

4 ways to ensure punctuality

Key Takeaway: We’ve all been late for something at least once. Tardiness is actually not living out consciousness and responsibility because it wastes time and ruins schedules – of both the other parties and the tardy party. Here are four suggestions to be more punctual.

Whether it’s intentional or not, foreseen or not, people – myself included – can be, and at times are, late. Whether it’s for class or work, an appointment, an event, a flight, or simply a disruption in someone else’s schedule, we tend to cause negative effects for both ourselves and others when we get late. Especially here in the Philippines, where there is an infamous satirical concept called “Filipino time” – which is 30 minutes to an hour behind schedule.

Failing to be on time, or to be punctual, is not practicing consciousness or responsibility. This has a two-way consequence. On the one hand, the time of the other party/ies involved is wasted as they wait (if they do) for the tardy party. Their schedules also get disrupted in a domino effect as one late appointment spills over into another.

On the other hand, the tardy party’s own schedule gets disrupted. Furthermore, they present an image that they are not trustworthy to keep the time, which would be a potential turn-off to other people, especially business partners. If the affair they are late for starts on time, it is their loss that they miss part of it – which can be most devastating in flights, as late¬†passengers are turned away if not in check-in, at the gate itself, right in front of the plane.¬†The tardy party just ends up hurting themself – as demonstrated in the image below, where the man who is running late loses his hat in doing so.


We are all guilty of tardiness. The most common reason it happens is negligence Рwe are not proactive enough in keeping time. We are so busy making ourselves look good that we forget we have a work schedule to catch in the morning, or perhaps a party we have a role in during the evening. Or we end up chatting with someone for so long that we completely miss our next appointment, thereby potentially missing an important deal or opportunity. In very informal or relaxed settings, this can be forgiven. But otherwise, consequences can and will be great.

We do not intend to be late, but we don’t work hard enough in ensuring we do arrive or start on time. As such, if one¬†suffers from chronic tardiness, it is their¬†responsibility to take steps to prevent lateness. Here are several suggestions I can think of and maybe should do myself.

1. Set your clock later

If you are habitually late by half an hour, set your clocks and watches thirty minutes later. If you’re usually late by an hour, set them to an hour later. Chances are you’ll forget, or not be conscious, that that timekeeping device doesn’t reflect reality, and you’ll still act according to it. Thankfully, because it’s set later, you’ll think you’re running late when in fact you’re right on time or even earlier.

2. Buffers the Tardiness Slayer

By training, I work with contingencies (whether or not they work is another story). Meaning, I place a lot of buffers in my schedules and plans – additional time to account for potential fortuitous events or unpredictable procrastinations that cause my actual time to be twice as long as the schedule itself.

For example, I am habitually late when I am being fetched. When I ask to be picked up at 7:00 pm, in reality, I arrive 7:30 pm or even 8:00 pm, as I tend to get carried away in chatting with my companions. As it always happens, I now give a significant buffer time. This is particularly useful for me in the morning, before I leave the house, when I give a time ten to fifteen minutes later than actual. It’s not a perfect system by all means, but this is a good first step to take if you’re like me.

Placing buffers in your schedule does not mean you are lessening your productivity by making things longer and thus leaving out room to add stuff to it. It’s better seen as a sacrifice to be made given our self-admitted unreliability. Let’s be realistic – it can be difficult to work according to our plans like clockwork. It shows that we admit our punctuality shortcomings, and are actually proactive enough to work around them. We have taken the initiative to solve this problem – and that will leave a positive impression on others.

For example, if you have an important occasion at night and you know the traffic on the way will be an urban disaster (as is so often the case in my city), plan on leaving the house thirty minutes to an hour earlier than you¬†normally would. If you anticipated right, at least you stand a greater chance of arriving on time. If it turned out there weren’t any traffic jams after all, and you arrived much earlier, then at least you planned well and did not take any risks. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Consciously set to arrive or start early

It is true that it is “better late than never”, but this should not be the running philosophy in our lives. I recommend the following phrase: “Better early and have contingencies than on the dot and risk tardiness”.

This is particularly useful in classes, meetings, or appointments. Rather than seek to arrive 5-10 minutes before the start (or worse, on the dot), make it an effort to arrive half an hour early. Work with this goal in mind, as it will also serve as a contingency. Should something befall you, at least there is time to work around it.

4. Have someone hold you accountable

Assuming there is someone willing, this would be both a challenging and fun way to ensure punctuality. This can be done in so many ways: from a simple chat asking what time you arrived, to enacting penalties – ranging from fees for a common fund or cause, to light-hearted humiliation.

Having someone else in the fray also makes us more conscious because we become more aware that our actions may affect others. Whereas in self-run schedules we do not really have anyone to answer to (the other parties you’re meeting don’t really count, unless it’s an important matter where you¬†know that the other party doesn’t suffer fools gladly), here, we do. That person can also help and advise you on ways to be more punctual beyond what I’ve written here.

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