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In 2016, I got into Building Entrepreneurs Today (BET6), a program for young entrepreneurs at Enterprise Development Center (of Pan Atlantic University), located in the Ajah area of Lagos. I was staying with my Sister at FESTAC, which was quite far. Now, traffic in Lagos is one of the worst in the world. A 20-minute commute could easily turn into a 4hr commute during peak hours. Classes start by 8am. To beat traffic, I would wake up by 4am, leave my house by 5am, and get to class by 6:30am. Guess who came late to class the most? Those living nearby.

Why do some people come early every time, whereas others struggle nearly every time?

When you’re meant to sleep, you are up. Ok. You wake up early enough but want to catch up with what is happening on the gram, you want to check what is trending on twitter, and then 20 WhatsApp chats later, you find out you’re running late.

Or maybe you wake up and suddenly realize that you have an urgent errand to run that morning before heading to work.

Lateness is a decision.

It is a series of seemingly harmless decisions. On the surface, those decisions do not look like a problem, but by the time you add them together, what do you have? ‘Late coming’. Being repeatedly late is the hallmark of poor personal leadership. When you’re late, it shows unseriousness. When you’re late to a place, it shows lack of accountability, it shows poor planning. Part of the reason why you should never be late to a place is that you don’t want people to have a poor impression about you. You don’t want people to think about you as a poor leader, you don’t want people to think about you as one who is unserious. These are the impressions that people have.

At your workplace, who consistently comes late? Or maybe you’re that person? So, the question is what kind of impression do you have about the person? There is something called impression management which is managing how people think about you. You will want to guard that.

Being late can have serious consequences: Imagine a surgeon being late for a surgery during an emergency. What if firefighters were late to a burning house? What if they were taking selfies instead of actually putting out the fire? Imagine being late for a job interview? 9 out of 10 times, it’s most likely you won’t get the job.

Lateness is not about how far you are from your destination. Lateness is a decision and here are 5 steps to help you never be late again:

Step 1: Plan ahead

Plan with traffic or hurricane in mind. Even if you have a personal car, anything can still happen. What if an emergency triggers a traffic jam? What if your car develops issues? Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Step 2: Leave early

Leave 30 minutes — 3 hours before the set time based on the distance. If you work in a traffic prone city like Lagos or New York, 2–3 hours before might be what you need. That way, you allow for unforeseen circumstances.

Step 3: Use alarms

For instance, I set my alarm for 4:30am and try to sleep early enough each night. This means I wake up early nearly every single day.

Step 4: Have an emergency protocol

What happens when you wake up late and behind time? At, resumption time is 8:25am. I leave my house by 7:30am, 90% of the time, but if for whatever reason I am still in my house by 7:45 am, I activate my emergency protocol which is that I pay for all free seats so the car can get me to the office in no time. This shouldn’t be every day, otherwise, it shows poor planning.

Step 5: Manage expectations

Sometimes you really can’t control what happens. I once got involved in a relatively minor car accident involving a bike man. Had to wait behind to sort things out. I got late to the office despite leaving home on time. You can’t control everything that happens to you. However, you have control over your reaction. If you’re going for an event or work and you find out things are going beyond your control, try to reach out to the organizers or your office, notify them you’ll be behind schedule. That way, they know you will arrive late and won’t have to call or text or worry about your well-being.


The reason steps 4 & 5 are down the list is because they are not to be used daily but sparingly. Steps 1 -3 will keep you out of trouble. With these tips, you will never be late again and literally move from being the chief latecomer to a shining example of punctuality everywhere you go.

Olugbenga Ogunbowale

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About author
Olugbenga Ogunbowale is a communications executive & social entrepreneur. An alumnus of the Leadership in Business Institute of Kellogg School of Management (USA), He has a certification in Integrated Marketing Communications from IE Business School (Spain), a certification in Humanitarian Communication from University of Geneva (Switzerland) & a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria). Inspired by the plight of millions of unemployed youths, Olugbenga founded, a digital agency building websites & mobile Apps to passionately grow businesses as well as training youths to accelerate the application of digital skills for economic prosperity across Africa. A Mandela Washington Fellow, Tony Elumelu Fellow, Royal Common wealth society fellow, YALI star of business, YALI network influencer & Tony Elumelu influencer, Olugbenga is the founder of Africa’s biggest orphanage outreach, The Orphan Empowerment Society (, empowering thousands of orphans with free vocational skills, medical care, & food. He is also the co-founder of the communication & leadership organization, Pacesetters Leadership Club. A highly sought after change agent with speaking engagements spanning 3 continents, Olugbenga has been featured by Voice of America, USAID, NTA, TVC, LTV, Radio Nigeria, Tribune amongst others.
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