How To Figure Out Why You're Always Late To Work

Man, Taxi, Frustrated, Cab, Late


On the list of irritating workplace habits, excessive tardiness lands at the top. Being a chronic late-arriver puts you at a serious disadvantage professionally and it could even jeopardize your career. Put simply, when you’re habitually late, you appear:

  • Selfish
  • Disrespectful
  • Unreliable
  • Disorganized

Even if you’re none of these things, the perception still exists. And perceptions impact your reality, whether you like it or not. If people perceive you as untrustworthy, they treat you that way.

When you wander in even a few minutes late for a meeting, you’re basically saying, “I play by my own rules.” In business, that kind of attitude creates a lot of animosity. It makes others feel belittled and put upon. Superiors and co-workers alike take notice and quickly grow resentful. Regardless of your intentions, your professional reputation will suffer.

So how do you fix the issue? You have to figure out what’s causing it and work backward from there:

Do you get in the zone? Some people get so wrapped up in the present moment, they completely space out on other commitments. They get lost in the task at hand and before you know it, they’ve missed their next appointment.

If this describes you, be proactive and set a timer to remind you when it’s time to stop and move on to the next thing. If you’re easily distracted, create multiple reminders (at varying increments) that will pop up on your phone, your computer, and anywhere else you’re apt to look.

Are you miscalculating? Some folks are just really bad at judging how long certain tasks will take. They decide to stop for a quick coffee and end up standing in line for 30 minutes. They constantly believe rush hour won’t delay them as much as it does. They always underestimate the amount of time involved.

If that’s you, start watching the clock closely to figure out exactly how much time things really take. Don’t trust your internal clock—it’s obviously a little off. You may be surprised to find that what feels like 10 minutes is actually 45. Once you have a more realistic understanding of time, you’ll be able to better manage it.

Are you failing to pre-plan? For some people, the first few hours of the day are always chaotic. They wake up late, rush around trying to find an outfit, and can never remember where they left their keys. It’s no wonder they’re always late.

If this sounds familiar, you either need to plan more time in the morning to allow for the chaos or get organised the night before. Pick out your clothes, accessories, and shoes, then make sure everything is ironed and ready to go. Make your lunch, pack your briefcase, and set the coffee maker to start automatically. A few extra minutes of planning at night can shift your entire day.

Are you over booking? Maybe you’ve just got too much going on. You’re running from work meetings to doctor’s appointments to little league games and you’re always just a few steps behind. Give yourself some breathing room. Plan for delays and interruptions. Work in some “down time” between meetings. To whatever extent you have control over your calendar, take advantage.

Are you addicted to the rush? Let’s face it: Some people are adrenaline junkies. They’re addicted to the rush that comes with time pressure. They intentionally wait until the last minute because it feels like a high. It might sound dramatic, but those of you who do this are nodding along right now. Perhaps you’re doing it unintentionally, but the outcome is the same.

You have to confront this behaviour and recognise that it’s costing you dearly. The consequences just aren’t worth it. It might make life a little more exciting, but you can create excitement in other, more positive, ways. The “running around like a headless chicken” act isn’t fun for the people around you. So take control, take responsibility, and fix it. Your friends, family, and career will all thank you.

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