How to Be on Time for Meetings

Some people are hyper-schedulers, and others aren't. If you're someone who is chronically late, learning certain cognitive tips can help.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #382

Expect the Worst

When you plan for travel, you probably think about the subways running on time, the roads being clear and open, and your Chevy convertible roof down, hair blowing in the wind, one hand on the steering wheel and one hand holding your martini as you zip down the causeway. Well, I have bad news for you: it’s illegal to drink and drive, the causeway is like a parking lot at rush hour, and you’ll end up with emphysema from breathing exhaust during the three hours you’re stuck in traffic trying to go three blocks. Plus, Santa Claus isn’t real.

Expect the worst. If you’re wrong, you arrive early and have plenty of time to send those all-important text messages.

Plan your travel expecting the worst. Expect traffic delays. Expect construction work that was planned, mysteriously, for the height of rush hour. If you’re wrong, then you arrive early and have plenty of time to send all those important text messages to shmoopie you wanted to send while driving but were wise, responsible, and safe enough not to. If you’re right, then you’ll still arrive on time.

If you are meeting virtually using webcams and conferencing technology, you might think you don’t need travel time. Nonsense. Your webcam will break, the sound will be mysteriously silent, your headphones will suddenly stop working, and the adult website you aren’t supposed to be browsing at work will suddenly start playing Naughty Prison Antics at full volume in the background. Give yourself 15 minutes before online meetings to get your technology situated. 

Visually Represent Time

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West gives Dorothy an hourglass. When the hourglass runs out of sand, the Witch will return to kill Dorothy for her ruby shoes. The Witch, whose emerald green skin is complemented by an ensemble of classic black dress and stylishly pointed hat, may be making a questionable color choice in footwear, but she’s nailed it in terms of visual presentation. Watching the sand drop through the glass creates a powerful sense of urgency.

Try a calendar program that shows the current time as a ruby red line cutting across your calendar. As the clock ticks, the space between the line and your upcoming appointment steadily narrows. The Mac calendar program does this nicely. Microsoft Outlook doesn’t, however, since the line that represents “Now” shows up only in the margin, and you don’t really see the shrinking gap of Impending Doom. 

Keep your day-at-a-time view open and in your field of vision. As the line gets closer to the upcoming appointment, you’ll know there’s not much time left. 

Get an On-Time Buddy

If nothing else works, get an on-time buddy. When an important meeting is scheduled, find another attendee and ask their help. “I find I have trouble making it to meetings on time. I want to be respectful of everyone’s time. You’re very good with time. Could you help me out by dragging me along to the meeting a few minutes early?” Jordan was horrified at the suggestion. “But this will make me look like a flake!” Yeah, Jordan, but as your boss made extremely clear, showing up consistently late is already doing that. This is a proactive effort to be on time. You could even just ask your colleague “Hey, could you grab me on your way over to the meeting?” and omit the part about this being more than an idle request.

There’s no magic bullet to fix chronic lateness. But planning to be early, scheduling your travel time, allowing for unknown and unexpected delays, visually representing the approaching deadline, and enlisting an on-time buddy can all help you be where you need to be, when you need to be there.

I'm Stever Robbins. Send your biggest work issues to getitdone@quickanddirtytips.com, and I’ll address them on the show. 

Do you want to learn how to set priorities better? My Extraordinary Productivity “Prioritization” program is coming up soon! Visit SteverRobbins.com/extraproductivity to sign up.

Work Less, Do More, and Have a Great Life!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.