Time & Productivity

7 Secrets of the Most Obnoxiously Punctual People

According to you, every destination is 20 minutes away and every appointment takes an hour. This is absolutely not true. And it’s upending your schedule, straining your relationships, and stressing you out. How to be on time, every time!

A man points at a clock to remind a woman of how to be on time
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Improve Your On-Time Record

Everyone is late on occasion, but many people with ADHD run behind schedule most of the time. They are late to meetings. They stand up their friends. They pick up the kids late from school. They leave others waiting as they scramble to finish last-minute tasks or find misplaced wallets, cell phones, or keys. It's like they don't understand how to be on time. If this sounds familiar, read on for ways to improve your on-time record.

A man and woman talk about how to be on time in a cafe
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Being Chronically Late Hurts Relationships

People with ADHD don't intend to be rude or disrespectful. But because of chronic tardiness, they're often perceived as selfish or inconsiderate of the people in their lives. That misperception is one of the reasons why individuals with ADHD have trouble maintaining good relationships with friends, family members, and co-workers.

A woman looks at her alarm clock and thinks about how to be on time
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Set the Departure Time - Not the Arrival Time

This is key! Starting with the time of your appointment, work backward until you figure out when you need to leave your home or workplace to arrive ten minutes early.

Note the departure time in your calendar. Repeat it to yourself. Replace the thought of the appointment time with the thought of the departure time.

A man looks at his watch and thinks about how to be on time
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Plan to Arrive Early

To be there on time, the first trick is to actually plan to be there early! Set a mental arrival time 10 minutes before the scheduled time to allow for unforeseen traffic problems. This idea is anathema to most people with ADHD who are horrified by the idea of unstructured waiting time. Put a magazine, book, or a stack of unpaid bills by the door to grab on your way out so you'll have something to do IF you should amazingly arrive early!

A frustrated driver with ADHD is stuck in traffic, and won't make it to work on time
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Next: How Long Does It Really Take?

People with ADHD are famous for underestimating how long it takes to go from point a to point b. Time yourself on frequently traveled routes. You will probably be surprised to find that your “10-minute” trip to the grocery store actually takes 20 minutes.

Use Google Maps if it's a trip you've never made before. And add 20 percent more time for rush hour.

A businesswoman leaves her house early to get to work on time
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Distractions, Distractions

It's almost impossible for many people with ADHD to make it out the door without trying to cram in “one more thing,” the additional task that so often derails plans — the phone rings, you answer it, you notice that the table needs to be cleared, or a plant needs to be watered, and, once again, you run late.

Avoid being distracted by reminding yourself of what you are doing, out loud and repeatedly: "I'm going to the car, I'm going to the car, I'm going to the car."

A man with ADHD gets dressed for work and thinks about how to be on time
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Getting Out the Door On Time

A common impediment to getting out the door is I-can't-find-it syndrome. The best remedy is to prepare ahead of time. Think about what you'll wear in advance. Place everything you'll need to take along by the door in cubbies, Make sure you have good directions and the telephone number of the person you're meeting—in case you get lost or run into traffic.

An alarm clock is essential for learning how to be on time
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Set Two Alarms

Set two alarms (a clock, a cell phone, or a computer), one that will go off five minutes before departure time and a second that will sound when it’s time to leave.

When the first alarm sounds, stop whatever you're doing and jot a quick sentence or two on a sticky note indicating where you left off. Try to be out of the door before the second alarm sounds.

A man checks his watch, to remind himself of how to be on time
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What Works for You?

You're probably not late for all of your appointments. Some people who would never dream of being late for work are frequently late for social appointments. Think about the strategies you use when you are on time, and use them for all of your appointments, personal and work-related.

A couple with ADHD that lost track of time and now is seriously late.
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Imagine Being On Time!

People with ADHD often underestimate the consequences of showing up late to important meetings. To counter this tendency, spend a few seconds imagining what the waiting person would think and feel. What would she say? What sort of facial expression would she have? Now imagine the look of approval and the friendly greeting you get when you show up on time. Bask in that feeling of success as you move toward your goal.