I used to be the most chronically late person. Ever. Until I lived in Los Angeles.
First and foremost, my biggest issue was getting to work on time. When I first moved here, I shared my brother’s apartment until I could get one of my own, and my office happened to be a 15-minute walk from his place in Santa Monica. This spoiled me beyond belief. A year later, I moved from my own apartment in Brentwood to Mid-City, and my commute grew from 20-minutes to 45. I am not exaggerating when I say: I was late to my first job every single day. At least 10 minutes, and at most 40, and you better believe my back pocket excuses were always ready.
Do yourself a major favor and do not make a habit of being late. Over the course of the year and a half that I worked at an agency, it was my norm to walk in right at 9:30AM and believe I was entitled to do so, because I was never really held accountable. This posed a major personal issue for me down the line, as my next two office jobs were much stricter. At my last office in Hollywood, I was walking in anywhere from 9-9:10AM regularly. I was proud of myself. This was the most consistently on-time I’d probably ever been to anything, and by my standards, 5 to 10 minutes late was on-time.
No, no it isn’t. It isn’t at all. Now I know that.
About a month in, HR made a point to tell me. “Caroline, 8 minutes late is not on time.”
Well. Why did I ever feel entitled to be late in the first place? Yes, I was spoiled by a lax work environment that assured me it was fine to operate on my own time. No, that is absolutely not normal. I decided it was time to fix this. So I nipped that chronically late version of myself in the bud.
Here’s how I did it:
- Add at LEAST 20 to 30 minutes on to the travel time estimate your GPS gives you. You will never arrive exactly when it tells you, unless you are driving somewhere at 9:30PM or later at night and there is no traffic.
- Even if traffic is light, still account for an extra 20 to 30 minutes. I have never had worse road rage then driving in Los Angeles. It is better to have extra time, especially if you aren’t positive of where you are going. If I’m unfamiliar with my end destination, I always leave extra early, because that also means I’m unfamiliar with the parking situation (and there is always a situation..)
- Look at your route options before you leave. Be aware that there is major construction currently happening on busy streets due to the metro line, and look for a way to avoid it. It has been taking me a full 10-minutes just to get out of my neighborhood, because I am near Wilshire and the metro line is going up (this is projected to last for a couple years so,.. get used to it.)
- If you are new to LA and do not yet have an apartment, try to look into living somewhat near your work, and factoring in commute times to each option to make the best decision. This can add or subtract up to a full 2 hours on your day.
- If you don’t know where you will be working yet, aim to live somewhere central. For example, my job requires me to drive all-over the city, which is accessible for me since I am in the middle of everything. It has been essential for me to live somewhere that is about 20-35 minutes from everything, vs. being close to the water but 45-minutes to an hour from most destinations. If you know you will spend most of your weeks in and around your neighborhood, then this is less of an issue for you.
- If you work 30-minutes to an hour away, look for ways to make the most of your time while in that part of town. After finishing work in Hollywood every day, I would go workout at LA fitness for about an hour to an hour and a half, that way I would have no traffic on the way home. This is one of the best ways to maximize your time, no matter what area you work in. I purposely joined a large gym with multiple locations all over the city: that way I would have access to one no matter where I was living or working.
- Try to leave 10-minutes earlier than your normal time every morning. When I would actually be on-time enough to do this, it would often shave off a full 10-15 minutes to my commute depending on the day. Find the time window in which you can make your commute in the least amount of time. Then you are early- get some work done before everyone is in the office, or go grab a coffee at your favorite spot!
- Waze is deceiving, and in some cases has completely backfired for me. I wouldn’t suggest this as the best option if you don’t know where you are going, because it will purposely take you on strange routes that are not linear to your destination. I use Waze only when I am desperate to get somewhere ASAP in horrible traffic, otherwise the crazy route with a million turns isn’t worth it.
- Waze is great for letting you see more realistic traffic patterns, any accidents on roads ahead, as well as helpful for knowing which areas to avoid in thick traffic.
- IPhone’s GPS system and Google Maps are both quite accurate. I personally like IPhone GPS for walking directions.
Lastly, if you can make it to your destination in 10-20 minutes by foot- you should absolutely walk! The longer I have lived in LA, the more I find I love walking everywhere. It’s the best way to kill three birds with one stone: get in a quick workout, avoid potential parking costs AND avoid traffic!
Being punctual in Los Angeles isn’t necessarily easy. But that doesn’t make it impossible. Take it from me: formerly the most chronically late person, ever.