Dawn Rebel


How to Be On Time—All the Time

Seven Habits That Will Make Time Your B*!@#

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need this advice. So, share it with the people in your life who do — especially if they are making you chronically late.

According to the Art of Manliness, when George Washington’s secretary arrived late to a meeting, and blamed his watch for his tardiness, Washington quietly replied, “Then you must get another watch, or I another secretary.”  When it comes to being punctual, I feel as strongly as President Washington did.

RELATED: It's Never Too Late To Start Caring For Yourself

Being perpetually on time isn't just something that the universe magically grants us. It takes a little planning, some good habits, and some serious self-reflection.

I recently reminded my chronically-late husband that he was running behind. “Time is an illusion,” he replied. I paused…

Me: Would you say you’re usually on time?

Husband: For the important stuff, like the airport, yes.

Me: So what you’re saying is that by being 15 minutes late for everything we plan together you’re letting me know that isn't the “important stuff.”

Husband: That’s about right.

There may have been a long awkward silence. Not saying for sure.

When you’re chronically late, people can assume that you:

  • Don’t care about their time or your time together.
  • Are poorly organized.
  • Procrastinate.
  • Have more “important” things to-do than meeting you.

But (mostly) that isn’t true. Right? You’re a good person. Aren’t you?

RELATED: How To Stop The Control Freak In Your Marriage

This past week, I met three friends for drinks. All three are incredibly successful high-powered career women that have WAY more important things on the go than meeting me socially. Fact. And yet, all three arrived within 30 seconds of one-another. Moreover, they arrived within a minute of our designated meeting time. It was clear that something other than divine intervention had created this perfect display of time-precision. These three women had internalized being on-time as part of who they are…they owned time.


7 ways to make time your b*!@#:

1. First, ask yourself: “Am I chronically late?” Be honest: If you are always the last one there, you are chronically late. If people say to you “you’re late” or don’t act surprised when you say “I’m late” then yes, you are chronically late. Know thyself.

Admitting defeat on this point is the first step to being on-time.

2. Harness the power of marketing, and re-brand yourself. You USED to be someone who was late all the time. NOW, you are reliable, focused, organized, and punctual. You are important enough to be selective about your events, yet you are organized enough to care about the things you do. Aren’t you awesome?!

3. Be a pessimist. The chronically-late are far too optimistic about how long things will take. Over-estimate everything: how long it takes you to shower, how long it takes you to pack, how long it takes you to get from Point A to Point B. A good rule of thumb is to add 20% to everything you plan.

And, if you have kids, take that and use the following equation:


These are well-known and scientifically proven algorithms.

Also, expect the unexpected. I worked for years in a fast-paced, events-driven job with VIPs and busy schedules. What is the most important thing I learned when planning an event? Expect that everything will go wrong. Then prepare for it. Apply this upbeat little advice-gem when planning your day!

4.  Use a schedule. Am I actually suggesting that modern, organized, people don’t use a written/electronic method for tracking their appointments? Yes. I am. I have seen seemingly organized people fail to take down their appointments. Even your kids are encouraged to develop this vitally important skill at school.

If you’re like me and live by your Google Calendar, set a reminder alarm for yourself. Set the reminder early enough that you have time to do something about it, should you have forgotten your next obligation.

5. Manage expectations and say no. Take a look at your next-day’s calendar of events each evening. First, have you been pessimistic enough? If not, don’t be afraid to move appointments. People take much more kindly to an event being rescheduled the night before than they do when they’ve been sitting alone at a table for 20 minutes.

Don't be afraid to say “no.” In our fast-paced, “voluntold” world where mothers are expected to have it all together at work, at home, in their own brains, plus have a little extra time and energy for every request ever made of them, EVER…..sometimes it’s better than ok just to say “no” now. See?! – You’re already freeing up some time in tomorrow’s schedule.

6. Let go of the “fashionably late” maxim. That’s equivalent to “chicly rude” or “trendily selfish.” You’re an adult now.

7. Be empathic. Life is busy, and if having a child has taught me anything so far (heaven knows, I’m learning everyday) it’s that time is not slowing down for me, or anyone else. I never feel like there is a moment to finish a coffee while it’s still hot, to go to the bathroom alone, to write a blog post while my daughter is napping, or to accomplish all the have-tos and want-tos I have each day.

But guess what: I’m not the only one who feels that way. Be kind to your fellow humans. They’re just as busy as you, and they took steps to meet you on time. Please do the same for them.

Irony Break:

In the middle of writing this post, I had a brunch date with a good friend across town. It was a Murphy ’s Law travel experience: every possible thing that could go wrong did.

Traffic, bakery lines, baby requirements (read: poopsplosion with an Indy-500 bum change, roadside), what looked like a construction crew drilling for oil over three blocks of a major street, a parade of older folks and their souped up walkers…

I was late. Not a little bit late. 30-minutes late. Of course, I apologized profusely. You’ll never guess what she said: “no problem!” And she meant it. Why? Because this was an anomaly in our history.

Sometimes it’s ok to be late, but make it the exception, not the rule.


Being on time is a message to other people regarding how you feel about them. But, it needs to be a message to you as well. Teaching yourself to be chronically on time will give you a feeling of control and calmness.

Time will be your b*!@# if you put in the…time. And if you can give yourself this organized habit, who knows what wild type-A organized frontiers you will conquer next.