Ayesha was running late. She had set her alarm for 7:00 am, and actually gotten up without pressing the snooze button even once. She had estimated that she needed around half an hour for breakfast and for getting ready, and would be at the convention centre (half an hour’s drive away) by 8:00 am sharp, where she was volunteering at a seminar that day.

However, things did not go as she had planned. She hadn’t ironed her Abaya the night before. She still had a few things to put in her bag. And making and eating breakfast took longer than she had imagined. When she finally set out of the house, it was 7:45 am. Traffic signals, a bottleneck at one intersection, and a flat tyre on the way delayed her further. When she finally reached her destination, it was almost 8:45 am.

One can say that Ayesha planned ahead of time but still managed to get her timings wrong. How?

Correct Time Estimation

According to the “Strategic Time Management” workshop conducted by Timelenders, the first step to master in the art of never being late is correct time estimation. Essentially, this means that whenever you are planning an activity, such as reaching somewhere at a specific time or submitting a term report on a certain date, you need to correctly estimate the time it will take you to complete that activity.

Before embarking upon that activity, take a deep breath. Sit down with a notepad and pen. According to Timelenders, you need to “calculate the steps that an activity takes and individually calculate the time for each step and then add it up; the more complex the activity is, the more steps you should divide the task into.”

Let’s take the case of Ayesha, for example, and work backwards from the time she needed to be at the convention centre. This will help us estimate the time that was needed for her to be ready, and travel to the convention centre. It will look somewhat as follows:

Activity Estimated Time Time
Reach the convention centre’s seminar room   8:00 am
Arrive at the convention centre and take the elevator to the seminar room 10 minutes 7:50 am
Travel to the convention centre 30 minutes travel time; add 10 minutes’ buffer for traffic / flat tyre 7:10 am
Call the driver, ask him to take the car out of the garage, put stuff in the car, and get in 10 minutes 7:00 am
Eat breakfast; put on Abaya 10 minutes 6:50 am
Prepare breakfast 10 minutes 6:40 am
Get dressed, get bag ready, and iron clothes 15 minutes 6:25 am
Wake up, and pray Fajr 10 minutes 6:15 am

This table gives a more realistic picture of the time Ayesha needed to reach the convention centre on time. To ensure she wasn’t late, she should have woken up at 6:15 am not 7:00 am.

Keeping Buffers

The table above shows one buffer for traffic time. Realistically, one should keep a buffer of 10 to 15 minutes to account for unexpected delays. According to Timelenders, a buffer is defined as “the time incorporated into an activity that accounts for delays that can be anticipated”. So if Ayesha wanted to add a further 15 minutes of buffer to her time estimation, she should have been awake at 6:00 am, a whole hour earlier than the time she actually woke up.


Do you want to master the art of never being late? Do the following activity:

You have to attend your daughter’s parent-teacher meeting. The time assigned to you is 11:00 am, and you have to be on time. First, determine your point of departure and point of arrival. Your point of departure might be your bedroom, and the point of arrival might be the meeting hall at school. Now, estimate the time it will take you to get from your point of departure to point of arrival.

  Breakdown of steps Time Estimation
1 Bedroom till the front door 1.5 min
2 From the front door to the car in the parking lot 1.0 min
3 Drive to the school 12.0 min
4 Search for parking and park the car 4.0 min
5 From the parking lot to the school building 1.25 min
6 Ground floor to the meeting hall 2.0 min
  Total 21.75 min


Now, break down the activity into different steps (try to have at least 6 steps). Once done, independently estimate the time for each step, and add them up. This will give you a more realistic picture of total estimated time.

Use this formula to calculate the time needed for all your activities, and you will, Insha’Allah, master the art of never being late.

Box Feature

Those who are never late are assumed to have the following characteristics:

  • Dependability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Are Responsible
  • Are Organized

Respect others