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Experts say that being late suggests incompetence, self-centredness and a lack of integrity. Plus it causes stress and self-loathing that can affect almost every aspect of your life. So why not make punctuality a priority? Here are some tips on how to make the clock your BFF.

Get thee to bed

Regular and restful sleep is the key to solving most of life's woes, and you can count lateness among them. If you wake up tired, you will probably have a sluggish start, which will bleed into the rest of the day. "You want to avoid being one of those people who presses the snooze button for half an hour in the morning," says Maria Baratta, a New York behavioural therapist who treats clients with chronic punctuality problems. "That's not restful sleep; and staying in bed will probably make you late."

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Getting the ideal eight hours will likely mean hitting the hay quite a bit earlier. Create a nightly routine (dim the lights, have a cup of decaf tea, read) to let your body know it's time to power down. And don't be surprised if at first you still feel tired. "It takes time and discipline to reset your sleep patterns," says Dr. Baratta. "It's like jet lag."

Keep a centralized schedule

Technology has been both a good and bad thing for effective calendar keeping. While smart phones and scheduling apps can identify and record appointments directly from e-mails, many of us also have a work computer, a home computer, an agenda and even an old-fashioned calendar, each of which may hold some elements of our daily obligations. (And still you're surprised when you miss a doctor's appointment.) Unless you're savvy enough to sync up your systems, it's a good idea to decide on one place to keep all of your appointments and stick with it.

Be realistic

As a rule, people tend to underestimate the amount of time things take, whether that's getting up in the morning or packing for a trip. We all tend to remember that one time when everything went smoothly, and use that as our reference point. If you look at morning routines, people might say to themselves, 'It takes me five minutes to shower, 20 minutes to get ready and 20 minutes on the bus to work, so I will wake up at 8:15 to be at work for 9.' Chances are, that person is always late.

"There's something to be said for Murphy's Law," says Dr. Baratta. "What about if it takes a few minutes for the shower to warm up? What if you have a three-minute conversation with your spouse? What if one of your kids needs help with something, or your sink is clogged, or the bus is late?" She advises clients to break down their schedule in a realistic way, then add about a half-hour of cushion room. In the worst-case scenario, you're able to relax and have a cup of coffee before starting the workday. "I never hear stories about people who are so upset or frustrated because they're always early."

Adjust your bad attitude

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"When I am starting out with a client who is always late for work, but manages to make it to other engagements, the first question I put out there is, 'How do you feel about your job?' " says Dr. Baratta, explaining that many of us subconsciously use lateness as a way to express resentment for an obligation, whether that's a job or maybe a dinner at your in-laws.

Examine why you might be showing up late. Let's say you got roped into being on a committee and go (albeit non-punctually) only out of guilt. It's probably time to scratch that gig off the to-do list.

In cases such as an in-law dinner or a couples' book club (where you might be participating to please someone important to you), a simple attitude adjustment often does the trick. "Reminding yourself that you are doing this to make your spouse happy, and that he or she does a lot of things for you, should improve your motivation, which is key," says Dr. Baratta.

Of course, in the professional realm, most of us aren't at liberty to just say no. "If quitting isn't an option, I remind a client to think about the positive side: This job allows you to provide for your family, or is allowing you to save up for a trip. The key is tying punctuality to positive motivators," she says.

And don't do this: Have a big night out if you have to be responsible the next day. A hangover is all but guaranteed to mess with your schedule.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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