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Late AGAIN?!?

Where are you when the meeting is supposed to start:

Are you at the table, pencil poised?

Racing out of the restroom, pocketing your comb?

Or are you just getting into the car, cell phone pressed to your ear?

If you're not at the table, you're one of the 15-20 percent of employees who are consistently late. A whopping 81 percent of meetings start behind schedule, according to a Blue Jeans Network study, costing the economy billions. And it only takes one punctually challenged individual to delay a meeting.

But your lateness does more than waste time and money. Intentionally or not, it sends a signal that you think your time is more valuable than that of others.

Worse, your lack of punctuality makes others think you are disorganized. Inefficient. Self-important. Rude.

And every one of these is bad for your career.

Why are you so late?

Chronic lateness can have several reasons. Sometimes it happens because you are trying to accomplish too much. Or because you fear being early. Some need the adrenaline hit of racing the clock to motivate them.

Some even think lateness makes them look important. (They're wrong.) But even if your reasons stem from good intentions, the result is bad. Here's how to change.

  • Make delay difficult. Do you hit the snooze button each morning? Put the alarm clock out of reach.
  • Know your times. Time your activities. How long does it take to get dressed for work? What's your average travel time? How long does it take to return to your desk from your fave lunch place?
  • Schedule wisely. Use the information above when scheduling ... and always add a 15-minute buffer.
  • Pare back. Say "no" sometimes. Doing a good job at some things is better than a mediocre one at all the things.
  • Plan ahead. Mornings tough? Lay out your clothes the night before. Program the coffeemaker. Skip the diner.
  • Be a pessimist. Pack your bag and plan for traffic, bad weather, and a major wardrobe failure. (Apps like Waze can save you time on the road.)
  • Embrace downtime. With mobile technology, downtime becomes productive! Pack a tablet or laptop -- even a phone -- and you'll never have to twiddle your thumbs.
  • Create threats. Tell colleagues next time you're late for a meeting, coffee's on you. If that doesn't do it, offer lunch.
  • Relinquish perfection. Wanting to make things perfect can lead to delays. Learn to let go and move on.

Finally, remember the stakes. Remind yourself that your good reputation is your primary asset, and that each time you are late, you put it at risk. That'll help you keep your priorities in order. And maybe, just maybe, it'll keep you on time.