They say that one positive thought in the morning can improve your whole day. So what does the panicked rush of running late for work do to your day?

I’ve spent my life running late. Late for work. Late for appointments. Late for social occasions. I’ve never been proud of it, but because I live a busy life in a fast-paced city I tried to tell myself that it was normal. That the uptight people who begrudged me 15 minutes here or there were the ones with the problem.

After all my lateness wasn’t malicious. It was simply a result of me trying to squeeze the most out of every minute, and please too many people. I slept late in the mornings, because I worked too late the night before. I would be late to an appointment with one friend because I’d tried to squeeze in time for another friend. It was an endless (but seemingly harmless) cycle.

That was until one of my friends ripped into me one night after having to (yet again) sit in a restaurant alone, waiting for me to appear.
To her my lateness demonstrated how little I cared for her, and how little I valued her time. It was hard to argue with her reasoning. I did care, but I certainly wasn’t demonstrating it.

My lateness demonstrated how little I cared for her, and how little I valued her time. It was hard to argue with her reasoning. I did care, but I certainly wasn’t demonstrating it.

That conversation made me take a long hard look at the affect that being late had on my life, and forced me to ask the following questions:

How does being late influence people’s perception of me?

Not everyone might feel as slighted as my friend, but surely being late all the time was making some impression. How much better might that impression be if I didn’t have to start every conversation with an apology for being late?

If I stopped sewing the seed of doubt at the start of every meeting, how much more credibility might it lend me suggestions? If I stopped annoying my clock-watching boss with my punctuality, how might that influence our next conversation around salary?

How does being late influence my perception of myself?

I started to think about the cumulative impact of always feeling flustered and on the back foot. Did I want to live a life where I was constantly apologising and playing catch-up?

How much unnecessary stress was I adding to my daily commute knowing that I was already late? Wouldn’t I feel happier and more relaxed if I didn’t start my day that way?

How would being early or on time make a difference?

It made sense that if being late was having such a negative influence on people’s perceptions, being early or on time would have a positive one. But possibly even more exciting was the prospect of feeling more calm, collected and prepared.

How nice would it be to get into work with time to prepare for that meeting? Or to have a quiet moment with a coffee or glass of wine before friends arrive?

What would I need to do to start being early?

Making the choice to be early was a good start, but I realised that it was never going to last if I didn’t change the expectations of both myself and those around me.

I needed to start saying no to those extra requests and appointments. I also needed to be honest with myself about how much time I needed to get places. Rather than focus on the time I had to be somewhere, I had to focus on the time I needed to stop work (or get out of bed) in order to get there on time. And that time had to be well in advance of when I needed to get out the door!

What about you?

What would take to get places early or on time? How would it make you feel?

As someone that has taken on this challenge I’ll admit that it has been far from easy. And I still can’t claim to be perfectly punctual. But even attempting it, has made a huge difference to my life. I have been amazed at how much more I have been able to achieve simply by doing less, and doing it more calmly.