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By Ross Bonander, Stress Management Specialist

We could take this time to relate all the reasons why and how being late can prove professionally and personally harmful to you, but if you’re chronically late, you already know them and they likely haven’t mattered enough to you — yet.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to do anything about it. Spare yourself the unfortunate experience of finding out the hard way. The following 4 steps to being punctual are predicated on the notion that being late is a selfish act. Use some of that selfishness to motivate you in a opposite direction.

Step 1

Create an incentive

The first step to being punctual involves the most reliable motive known to mankind: creating personal incentives, or the “me factor.” Think selfishly: What do you gain by being on time today, and what are you putting on the line by potentially being late for this particular event, meeting or function?

In other words, what’s in it for you? Try to avoid generalities like “reputation.” Be specific. If you’re late to your job today, will you get fired? If not, find another incentive. For instance, being punctual will translate to leaving early in the afternoon and beating traffic. Or being late will require an excuse on your part, and if you are the kind of person who is always giving excuses, rest assured you long ago ran out of believable ones. Nothing short of a karma lie — one that involves the alleged poor health of a loved one — can save you now. Good luck with that.

Step 2

Mentally move up your arrival time

Here’s a disastrous idea used by late people everywhere: Move your clocks ahead 10 minutes so you can constantly reassure yourself you still have 10 minutes before you’ll be late. What’s odd is that late people continue to do this even though it doesn’t provide dependable results. It has all the logic of a compulsive behavior. It’s one that you know isn’t good for you, but that you’re unwilling or unable to stop doing.

If you absolutely need to deceive yourself about the time, mentally schedule your appointment 15 minutes sooner than it actually is. Don’t touch a clock anywhere. Just prepare for a 10 a.m. meeting as though it were a 9:45 a.m. meeting.

Step 3

Arrange for any downtime

Some people panic at the thought of the downtime created by getting somewhere early and being forced to stand in lines or hang around waiting rooms. Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out, told WebMD: “There is a tremendous fear of downtime, an anxiety associated with doing nothing and waiting.”

There are a few more steps to follow to be punctual…

Turns out, no one likes waiting rooms. Who would have guessed? And people who are perpetually late tend to be the ones who make waiting rooms even more miserable since their being late throws a wrench in everyone’s schedules.

Instead of letting your panic screw others, plan ahead for this downtime. Turn it into a planned time of production: with work, a book, anything that can occupy your time if you’re early. In other words, transform your waiting time or the waiting room into a functional time and space. Giving it meaning and value should prove incentive enough to get you there on time.

Step 4

Reject doing one more thing

The last step in being punctual is to reject the inner urge to do that last little thing or two before you head out the door — like take out the trash or check your blog for comments. Often enough, it’s this last-minute commitment to getting things done that makes you late.

Make a mental note to do it first thing when you get home, write it down if you need to, but resist actually doing it. There will be time to do these little things later; why is it so important to squeeze them in when you’re already pressed for time? Again, go with the “me factor.” Tell yourself that the price of not preparing to be on time is the inability to do these little things at your leisure.

In the future perhaps you’ll be more aggressive about how you spend your time while learning to give the proper value and respect to other people and their time

Read more here.