Running late again? 5 Critical Things to Do Immediately

5 things you MUST do whenever you’re running late.


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Are you always running late? This post outlines what to do when you’re running late for work, class, or a social event.

Anyone can be late

Being a late person is not a good thing.

It never will be.

Related: Why you should always be early

But while you should always make an effort to be punctual, there will be times when you may actually have a ‘good reason’ to be late.

Like I always say: life is unpredictable

Traffic jams, accidents, and sudden sickness are just a few examples of incidents that can make anyone late.

And in times like these, it’s still important to do what you can to minimize the consequences of being late.

What to do when you’re running late

Here are five things you MUST do when you’re running late:

1. Make some calls

Whether you have a business meeting or you’re going for lunch with friends, the polite thing to do if someone is waiting for you is to give them a call and let them know that you’re running late.

It may seem a lot easier to send a text, but you never know if/when that person will read it.

Or you may think it’s better to skip letting them know altogether and just show up eventually.


Call them before they start calling you!

Calling is a direct way to let whoever you’re meeting know what’s going on. (However, if you’re running late for work, it may sometimes be more appropriate to send an email.)

When you call, don’t worry about it being awkward — it’ll be a lot worse when you show up late without giving them a heads up. 

gordon ramsay fox GIF by MasterChef Junior
gordon ramsay fox GIF by MasterChef Junior

Tips for calling to say you’ll be late

Here are some tips for making that uncomfortable call:

  • Timing is everything: don’t wait until you’re actually late to tell them you will be late
  • Speak clearly: let them know exactly why you’re calling
  • Tell the truth: don’t say you’re close by when you’re still at home. Be honest so that the other person has a realistic idea of when you’ll get there
  • Be apologetic: it’s easy to be defensive when you’re wrong, but the right thing to do is to apologize for essentially wasting the other person’s time
  • Get to the point: it may seem like a good idea to engage in some small talk (maybe that will make them less annoyed, right?) but no one wants to engage in small talk when you should be meeting with them in a few minutes. Get straight to the point and save the pleasantries for later
  • If possible, offer to reschedule the meeting. And be early the next time!

How to say you’re running late

Don’t know what to say when you’re late?

Here are two examples you can follow: 

When late for a casual or social event, you can say something like:

Hey Name, just wanted to let you know that I’m running a bit late because of this valid and honest reason. I’m really sorry to keep you waiting. I’m at actual location right now and should be there in realistic time estimate.

When late for work or a formal event, say something like:

Good morning/afternoon/night Mr/Mrs/Ms. Name, I’m calling to inform you that I’m running late for event. I should be there in realistic time estimate ( but if you prefer, can we reschedule for another suitable day?) I’m really sorry for the inconvenience.


You can use this call format as a ‘coming late to work’ email sample. Just alter the wording as necessary.

Even if they seem irritated, the person waiting will appreciate the fact that you let them know what’s going on.

Informing someone that you’ll be late gives them the opportunity to get a few things of their own done or to plan how to move forward while they wait for you.

And even if they don’t answer, the missed call or email will show that you cared enough to try to contact them. 


I was running super late to meet a friend. They called me over and over and I kept telling them I was on my way even though I was stuck in traffic!

When I FINALLY arrived, they were so upset with me that they LEFT.

I felt awful.

We are still good friends, but the experience really made me think more about my punctuality and respecting other people’s time.

2. Focus

Put away all distractions and focus only on the most important thing: getting to your destination.

If you’re someone who likes to listen to music or watch YouTube videos as you get ready, it’s time to put all these away.

These are privileges reserved for the early.

Quickly think about the exact things you need in order to leave the house.

It may look like one of these scenarios: 

  • pack portfolio – get to interview/ meeting
  • get dressed – pack my assignment – get to class
  • take a shower – brush teeth – hair & makeup – get dressed – meet friends for lunch
  • pack travel documents – call an uber – go to the airport

Of course, it’s up to you to know what you need to do. But, you get the picture.

When you are aware of exactly what you need to do in order to leave the house, you won’t get distracted by other unimportant things.

3. Take shortcuts

Figure out where you can take shortcuts as you get ready to leave.

Ask yourself:

  • What isn’t that important right now? 
  • How can I save time?
  • What can I save for later?

Here are some ideas of shortcuts you can take when you’re running late:

  • If you’re running late to work or class because you’re trying to pack lunch, decide that you’ll have to buy lunch that day
  • If the hairstyle you planned to do takes 15 minutes, go for one that takes less time.
  • Go for a simple makeup look or go make up free
  • Use a shower cap so you don’t have to wet and blow-dry your hair
  • Opt for night meditation if there’s no time to do it in the morning
  • If you can’t find that perfect outfit or favorite hoodie, get another one or leave without it
grooming flat iron GIF by I Feel Pretty
grooming flat iron GIF by I Feel Pretty

Forget about the things that you ‘always do’. When you’re late you NEED to take shortcuts to save time.


Being late is no excuse to drive recklessly, to treat others badly or to forget to turn off the stove! It’s more important to be late and safe than to comprise the safety of yourself and others in an attempt to be early.

4. Ask for help

Getting assistance is a great way to save you time.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Ask family members, partners, or roommates to help you complete any tasks you need to do before you leave. For example, someone can help you print an important document while you take a shower or pack your bag while you get dressed.

If you’re running late for work find out if a coworker can assist you by doing any urgent tasks you were responsible for.

If you’re running late for class, ask a classmate to let you know what you missed.

Think of useful but realistic ways that someone can help you out. (Of course, you can’t ask someone to brush your teeth!)


It’s okay to ask for help now and then, but, please don’t make this a habit! It isn’t fair to continually ask someone to stop their work every time you’re late.

P.S Don’t forget to be willing to help if they’re ever in a similar situation!

5. Calm down

Ideally, you should try to be calm as you get ready, even when you’re late.

Ever heard the phrase, ‘more haste, less speed’?

It basically means that rushing will actually slow you down.

For instance, when you’re in a rush, you’re more likely to get forget something important or have an accident.

So try to be calm and think clearly.

Breathe Schitts Creek GIF by CBC
Breathe Schitts Creek GIF by CBC

But trust me, I know it’s easier said than done. (This is definitely something I struggle with!)

Try to take deep breaths as you get ready.

Remind yourself that it isn’t the end of the world. Take comfort in the fact that you already let the person(s) waiting know you’re running late. Realize that you really are doing your best.

As soon as you get the chance — maybe while you’re traveling to your destination, take time to reflect.

It makes no sense to get angry at other drivers or pedestrians or to overthink when you’re already late. 

Instead use the time to calm down, get composed and reflect.

Ask yourself some questions: 

  • What is the real reason that I’m late?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Is this something I want to happen again? Why not?
  • What will I do to prevent myself from being late again?

Be serious about your answers.

It shouldn’t be something you think about once, then forget.

When you get the chance write the answers to these questions and read them the next time you have to go somewhere. This will help you plan ahead to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes again.


Being early is the best way to avoid the embarrassment and stress of being late.

However, life is unpredictable and there may be times when you just can’t be early.

When you find yourself in such a situation, there are some things you MUST do. 

By following these five tips above, you can minimize the consequences of being late and ensure that you learn from the experience so it doesn’t happen again.

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