What to Do if You're Running Late

Woman who overslept
Set your alarm to make sure you are ready on time. Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Most people know the importance of being on time and that consistently being late is rude. However, there are times when you can't help it. Something happens to slow you down, and there is no way you can make it to your date, appointment, business meeting, or other engagement by the designated time.

What to Do if You're Running Late

Here are some things you can do if you know you're going to be late:

  1. Call or text as soon as you know you can't make it on time.
  2. If you'll be more than five or ten minutes late, offer to reschedule.
  3. Do everything in your power to get to your destination as soon as possible, but don't risk injury in doing so. If you overslept, make up the time by putting on less makeup or skipping that extra cup of coffee. But don't be a speed demon on the road.
  4. Stay calm. Take a deep breath and mentally calculate how long it will take to get to your appointment.
  5. Once you arrive, offer an apology and thank others for their patience, but don't grovel. That's a huge waste of time.
  6. If there is a late fee, offer to pay it without being asked.
  7. Explain why you're late, but resist the urge to blame someone else. Doing this enough times will make you appear incapable of taking charge of your life.
  8. Don't let your tardiness ruin the remainder of your day. Move forward but make every effort possible to be on time for everything else.
  1. If others make snide remarks, avoid the urge to argue. You won't win, and it's a huge waste of time.
  2. Do whatever you have to do to be on time in the future.

How to Prevent Running Late in the Future

Whether you are habitually late or it only happens occasionally, there are things you can do to prevent it from happening again.

Here are some tips:

  • Plan ahead. This includes laying out your clothes in advance and calculating the time it will take to get where you're going.
  • Maintain your calendar. Jot down the event on your calendar and make sure you put the time you should be there.
  • Know where you're going. If you've never been to the location before, find it on the map or GPS, and if you have time, make a trial run. It's frustrating trying to find a place when you're pinched for time.
  • Set your alarm. Make sure your alarm clock is set to give you enough time to get ready and drive to the location. Resist the urge to hit the snooze button.
  • Don't procrastinate. You might wait until the last minute to leave, which can cause you to be late if there's a traffic jam. Leave a few minutes early to make sure you arrive on time and without stress.
  • Locate your keys in advance. There's nothing more frustrating than being ready on time but having to search for car keys.

When Others are Late

You've probably had to wait for someone before, so you know how annoying it can be to arrive on time, only to have the other person show up late. Here are some things you can do:

  • Bring something to do. If it's during business hours, maybe you can work on a laptop. If you're waiting for a friend, download a book to your e-reader or phone.
  • Know the habits of the other person. If you know the person you're meeting and have experienced him or her being late in the past, be prepared for the same thing happening again. There is no point in stressing over it, or you'll be frustrated and angry.
  • Know the culture. In certain cultures, being on time means showing up a few minutes after the designated time.
  • State an earlier time to meet. When people consistently arrive 15 minutes late, tell them to be somewhere at 6:15 and expect them at 6:30.