Today’s world is a hectic one, and if you are a normal person, it is inevitable that you have found yourself chasing the clock one or two times. Sometimes, it seems like the world is conspiring against you, and try as you might, you just cannot avoid being late.

There is no shortage of reasons why this happens – you cannot find your keys, your kids take forever to get prepared, your car won’t start, traffic, you name it.

This is totally normal and understandable. If your lateness is more than an occasional occurrence, however, this is a sign that you have a problem. And this problem could be ruining your reputation at work and negatively impacting your career.

It does not matter if you are the smartest person at work or the most competent; if you are never on time, be it to work, to meetings or on deadlines, you risk coming across as unreliable and unprofessional, which can in turn affect your ability to move up the career ladder. Sadly, never being on time is common to a lot of people.

According to a study at the San Francisco State University Led by Diana DeLonzor, about 20% of people are habitually late, both in their professional and social lives.

This means that one in every five people might be ruining their reputation at work and curtailing their chances of career advancement by not being on time.


Being on time to work, to meetings and on deadlines is important for several reasons. These include:

It Shows Professionalism

One of the greatest indicators of professionalism is value for your time and that of others. By always being on time, it shows that you are a reliable and trustworthy employee. It helps you establish your reputation as a consistent and dependable person. Your boss knows that if he or she asks you to come in or deliver something by a certain time, you will do it.

Colleagues have confidence that when you say you will get something done by a certain time, you will actually do it. Clients also trust that you will deliver what you promise on time, which builds their confidence in you as a professional and in the organization as a whole.

On the other hand, if your bosses, colleagues, and clients cannot be sure that you will be there when they need you, there will be doubts about your professionalism. If people cannot trust you to organize your own time, they might not be willing to trust you with other, more important matters.

Would you trust a colleague who always shows up to meetings late and breathless? Such people paint a picture of chaos and disorder, not professionalism.

It Shows You Care About And Respect Your Team

Being on time for meetings, shift changes, conference calls, and getting your work done on time shows that you care about and respect your colleagues and clients. It shows you care about the goals of the team and that you are willing to carry you weight on the job. This in turn enhances the morale and productivity of the team.

Consider a situation where one team member is habitually late. The flow of work gets disrupted since the rest of the team has to wait for the late member to finish their part. Sometimes, other team members might even be forced to step in for the late member. This not only affects the productivity of the team, but also the morale of the team.

The other members feel disrespected. Having to frequently cover for the late co-worker leads to tension and resentment within the team, which in turn affects performance and productivity.

Enhances Your Employability

Being habitually late shows that you either do not value the goals and objectives of the organization or you are not interested in the work. This paints a bad picture to your bosses. It shows that you lazy or irresponsible.

In extreme cases, it can even lead to dismissal from your current job, especially if your organization is looking to downsize. A history of tardiness can also hurt your chances of finding employment if you are searching for a new job.

No one wants to hire an employee who will constantly be late to work and in delivering their work. On the other hand, a history of always being on time can help you score points with a potential employer. It shows that you are a dependable and reliable worker, thereby enhancing your employability.

Allows You To Meet Deadlines

Deadlines are a natural part of work. As a professional, you will be required to meet daily, weekly, and monthly deadlines. If you are constantly late, you do not have enough time to work on your assignments, which results in missed deadlines [link to article on what to do if you are going to miss a deadline] or low quality work done in a rush.

This reflects poorly on you and affects your reputation as a professional. No one wants an employee who is constantly missing deadlines and not finishing assigned tasks. Being on time, on the other hand, gives you enough time to meet your deadlines, which makes you a productive member of the organization and shows your strong work ethic.

You Serve As An Example To The Rest

Imagine having a boss who is never on time. They are late to work, meetings start late as you wait for them, and projects are always being approved late. What effect would this have on you? In the long run, you would also start being late.

Why get work to the meeting early if you will waste half an hour waiting for your boss? Why finish the project on time if it will spend a week on your boss’s desk before being approved?

The same applies to you, especially if you are in a senior position. If you are habitually late, your colleagues and juniors will notice it and start following your example. After all, if you can get away with it, they know they can too.

This leads to a laid back office culture where members of your team routinely show up late, thereby affecting the productivity of the team and the organization as a whole. If you are always on time, on the other hand, you serve as an example to the rest of your team and inspire them to also strive to be always on time.


Lateness is often attributed to simple causes – traffic, not being able to find parking, an email sent at the last minute, and so on. Sure, these things might make you late, but they are only the symptoms. The real problem is something much deeper. According to the research by DeLonzor, lateness is a psychological problem.

In her research, Ms. DeLonzor came to the conclusion that people who are habitually late fall into one or more of seven personality types. These seven personality types are:

The Rationalizer: If you fall in this group, you tend to rationalize your lateness with excuses. Despite being habitually late, you don’t think you might be the problem. There is always something or someone to blame. Either your kid’s teacher asked to see you in the morning, you got a puncture, there was an accident along the way, your alarm did not ring, the list is endless. There is always an excuse. If someone calls you out for being late, you think they are being inconsiderate since your lateness was caused by something outside your control.

The Producer: You are always trying to do as much as possible within as little time as possible. Your schedule is always jam-packed. You plan to take a shower, prepare your kids for school, make and eat breakfast, and drop the kids to school, all within an hour. With all these activities to complete within a short time, it is not surprising that you end being late.

The Procrastinator: Your greatest motivation to get things done is deadlines. You leave things until the last minute. If it takes you thirty minutes to get to work, you get out of the house with exactly thirty minutes to spare. If a task that needs to be done by close of business takes one hour to complete, you wait until the last hour of the day before you start working on it. Unfortunately, this means if something unexpected comes up, it is inevitable that you will be late.

The Indulger: You have a hard time controlling your urges. Instead of waking up the moment your alarm goes off, you hit the snooze button and sleep for an extra ten minutes. Instead of starting your work on time, you spend an extra 20 minutes checking your feed on social media. Indulging in your urges eats into your time and causes you to be late.

The Disorganized: Your lateness stems from the fact that you are a poor planner. Either you don’t remember that you have an appointment or you cannot find your phone, keys or wallet, or you forgot what time you are supposed to meet someone and so on.

The Rebel: If you fall in this group, lateness is not actually a problem for you. You know that if you want to, you can be on time. However, you are deliberately late as a show of defiance. It is your way of rebelling against rules and authority.

The Anxious: Your tardiness might also be an indicator that you are suffering from anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues. You are afraid of uncomfortable situations and try your best to avoid them. You want to appear perfect in everything you do. For instance, you might have a hard time deciding what to wear in the morning because you want to look perfect, causing you to be late. Alternatively, if you are working on something, you might waste a lot of time nitpicking small details in an attempt to avoid being called out for something you overlooked, causing you to miss a deadline.

The above shows that being habitually late is a much deeper problem than simply misplacing your keys or slow traffic. Knowing which category you fall in is important if you want to effectively become better at keeping time.


So, we know that being on time is a good thing for your reputation at work. Unfortunately, even knowing this, you cannot simply improve by telling yourself that you need to get better at keeping time.

We have seen that lateness is often a much deeper problem, and therefore you need a strategy if you want to become a more punctual person. Below are some tips that will help you make sure that you are always on time.

Go To Bed Earlier

Very often, you might be getting to work late because of your tendency to snooze the alarm in order to get a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning. Instead of going to bed late and trying to squeeze in a few minutes of sleep in the morning, why not get into bed earlier and get enough sleep?

This ensures you are fully rested by morning and less compelled to grab a few more minutes of sleep. Not only does going to bed earlier make it easier for you to wake up earlier, it is also good for your health.

Of course, if you want going to bed earlier to translate into punctuality in the morning, you need to start waking up immediately your alarm goes off. As tempting as it might be, do not reach for the snooze button or linger in bed checking your emails or social media.

A good tip for preventing this is to place your alarm clock far away from the bed, such that you have to get out of bed to turn it off. This minimizes the chances of hitting snooze and going back to bed.

Prepare Everything The Night Before

If you ask people why they got to work late, many will point out that the culprit is the morning preparation. Either you cannot find your keys or wallet, your wife cannot find her phone or sunglasses, your son cannot find his mathematics text book.

Searching for these things when it’s time to go out the door not only makes you late, but also makes you annoyed, resulting in a bad start to your day.

To prevent this, you should make sure that everything else prepared the night before. A good idea is to have a specific place designated for things you need every morning – keys, wallet, and so on. When you get home in the evening, place these items in the designated place where you can easily retrieve them in the morning.

If there is something else you will need in the morning, prepare it in evening. Pack your laptop, make sure you have what you need for breakfast and so on. You should also encourage your spouse and kids to prepare themselves the night before.

Ask your wife to plan what they are going to wear the night before and your kids to pack their schoolbags before they go to sleep. Preparing everything the night before saves you a lot of time and stress in the morning, and you will start getting to work earlier.

Plan To Be Early, Not On Time

Some people hate being early. They either hate having to sit around waiting while doing nothing else, they feel awkward and uneasy waiting, they don’t want to seem too eager, or maybe they want to get something else done instead of having to wait around inefficiently.

This does not mean that they are late on purpose. Since they hate being early, such people plan to be on time, getting where they are needed at the exact minute they are required to be there. If you need to attend a meeting at 12.00 noon and you assume it takes 30 minutes to get to the venue, you leave at 11.30 am so that you arrive exactly at noon.

Unfortunately, this does not leave room for a contingency in case something happens. If you realize you forgot something and have to rush back to the office, or if a cop stops you on the way, that’s it. It becomes impossible to get where you are going on time.

To avoid this, you should plan to be about 10-15 minutes early. This gives you time to handle anything that might come up on your way.

Time Yourself

Another major reason why people are usually late is that they are poor at estimating the time it takes to get certain activities done. For instance, you might assume that you will only take 10 minutes to shower, five minutes to get dressed and another ten minutes to have breakfast before leaving the house.

Once you get started on the activities, however, you end up taking 20 minutes to shower, ten minutes to get dressed and 15 minutes having breakfast. If you had estimated that you will be walking out the door in 30 minutes, you end up late because the activities you needed to get done took 45 minutes. This is quite a common occurrence.

According to a study by a San Diego State University psychology professor by the name Jeff Conte, people judge time differently. In the study, one group of people felt that a minute had passed after roughly 58 seconds, while another group felt that a minute had passed after a whopping 77 seconds.

So, how do you stop making incorrect assumptions about the time it takes to get things done? The key is to find out how long it actually takes you to get things done. For two weeks, write down all the tasks you have to complete every single day – showering, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, getting dressed, getting to work, and so on – and then note down the time it took you to get done next to the activity.

Perform the tasks normally; don’t rush through them in order to claim they take less time. At the end of the two weeks, you will have a pretty accurate idea of how long each activity takes, and you will be less likely to use incorrect estimations when planning your day.

Get Rid Of Excuses

What is the most common excuse you use whenever you find yourself running late? Observe yourself every time someone calls you out for being late and take note of the excuses you give. After a while, you will notice a pattern of excuses you use regularly, such as the traffic being bad or your kids taking the longest time to get ready for school.

Once you realize your most common excuse, accept it as a natural part of your day and incorporate it into your daily routine. If you always blame the traffic, accept the traffic as a natural part of your day and start leaving the house earlier to beat it.

If your kids are taking a lot of time getting ready, wake them up earlier and get them to prepare themselves earlier. Whatever your regular excuse for being late is, start incorporating it into your schedule.

Manage Your To-Do List

Remember the producers who try to get a hundred and one things done within the shortest time possible? If you are one of them, it might be time you started managing your to-do list a little better. Stop taking on endless tasks.

Figure out the important tasks that you need to get done and schedule them into your day and leave the less urgent tasks for the next day. If your boss gives you an additional task when you already have a full plate, do not be afraid to let him or her know that you already have several other things that you are working on.

If the new task needs to be done urgently, let them know that you will need to schedule the current tasks to another day, instead of trying to get everything done at once.

Watch Out For Time Traps

Finally, if you want to always be on time, you should watch out for time traps and distractions that make you waste time.

Activities like checking your social media, watching TV shows, chatting, playing video games, and so on cause you to forget time and eat into your schedule, leaving you with little time to get important things done. To avoid wasting your time on such activities, schedule them for moments when they won’t result in you getting late for anything.


Never being on time for work, meetings and deadlines might be killing your reputation at work and ruining your chances of moving up the career ladder. Being on time shows professionalism, shows that you care about and respect your team, enhances your employability, allows you to meet deadlines and allows you to serve as an example to the rest.

Fortunately, tardiness is a problem anyone can deal with. To stop being perpetually late, you should start sleeping earlier, prepare everything the night before, plan to be early instead of on time, time yourself to know exactly how long activities take and get rid of excuses.

You should also learn how to manage your to-do list and prioritize important tasks, instead of trying to do everything done at once. Finally, you should also watch out for and avoid distractions and time traps that waste your time.

Once you start putting these tips into practice, you will become more punctual and establish a reputation for yourself as a trustworthy, reliable and dependable person.

The Bad Habit That's Killing Your Reputation at Work

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