I'm usually not all that busy, at least in terms of items on my schedule. I have infinite things that I could do, but very few of them have to happen at specific times or on specific days.
If I do have a commitment, though, I will be there exactly on time. An exceptional situation might cause me to be a couple minutes late. Of all of the coaching calls I've done, for example, I'd estimate that I call on the exact minute promised around 99% of the time.
There are a number of reasons why this is the best way to be, even for unimportant meetings. If I tell an oil change place I'll be there at 10:30, I will be there at 10:30. In fact, many of the reasons for doing this have nothing to do with the other party.
The first reason I do this is, in fact, for the other party. If I am five minutes late to something, I have wasted five minutes of that person's time. This is an egregiously arrogant thing to do, as I'm tacitly saying that my time is more important than theirs. If there are multiple people waiting, I'm telling them that their time combined isn't as valuable as mine.
Sometimes I may even believe it. If I'm doing someone a favor, maybe we both know my time is worth more than theirs. But even in that case, it's extremely rude to be late. You may know you're more handsome than me, but it's still rude to tell me that to my face.
Even if there were no other reasons to be on time, this one is good enough. Being late is really rude and inconsiderate.
However, an even more important is your relationship with yourself. You must be able to set deadlines for yourself and live up to them. If you don't do that, you cannot effectively manage your time.
Imagine that there is a child who misbehaves. But every time he misbehaves, he just gets away with it. No reprimand or correction. Will he learn to behave? Probably not.
If you allow yourself to be late constantly to everything, you will never learn to manage your time. Even though you are very rude in being late, most people are polite enough to let you get away with it. No reprimand.
The correct method is to stop whatever you are doing, even if it is important, and go where you said you'd go so that you arrive at the right time. It may be painful and even detrimental to not finish your other thing, but that's the whole point. The consequences fit the action, and you'll remember them.
Maybe next time you will start earlier to make sure you finish in time. Maybe you'll pace yourself better or waste less time. Or maybe you'll just say no to commitments that aren't that important. Any of these are fair things to do. You should want to feel negative consequences when you make incorrect actions, so that you will make fewer incorrect actions in the future.
I agreed to a speaking engagement that I sort of wish I didn't agree to. I don't mind going, but I have other ideas for how I could use that time. I could easily get out of it, as it's still far enough in advance and I'm doing it for free. I won't bail, though, because I want to feel the pain of making a sub-optimal decision. It will train me to think more about alternatives when agreeing to things.
Stick to your committments. Your word is important, both to others and yourself. Even when sticking to the committment is the wrong move in the short term, it is correct in the long term because it will help train you to make better decisions.
Ironically my trip to Kazakhstan was the speaking trip I wanted to avoid when I wrote this. Turned out to be an amazing trip. Photo is a picture of us rowing in a lake.
Right now I'm waiting to start a video interview. I called in early, but my friend who is doing the interview wasn't ready, so I've got five or ten minutes to kill before we get started. My first inclination was to catch up on email. I only had a couple to write, so I finished them quickly. Still some time to kill. I took a look at a SETT bug that's high priority, but the solution wasn't the obvious one that I thought it might be. I'll have to take a deeper look when I have more time. Still have a few minutes before we start. May as well write a blog post.
I think that there are two basic modes that a productive person's mind can be in. There's that mode where you're going to get your work done, but you'll fight yourself every step of the way. When you're in that mode, your reticular activation system, the part of your brain that is constantly scanning, looks for non-work things to do. Ooh, five minutes before the call-- why don't you browse Facebook? I call this the distraction-first mode.
I've been in distraction-first mode plenty of times, probably spent most of my life there, but today I'm not, so when I have a few minutes of downtime, my default is to find something productive to do. Email, SETT, blog post. Productivity-first mode. It's not that I force myself to fill these minutes with something productive, it's that it's what I actually want to do. That's the magic of it.
Being in productivity-first mode is beautiful. It's like living your life in a flow state, executing task after task without the mental toll of having to cheerlead yourself into doing. Emails finished, open up my code editor with no hesistation and start poring through the source code. Determine that it needs more time than I have, and before I can even think, I'm two sentences into this blog post.
Ah, you there, my Type-A friend. I'm glad you came today. Come in. What would you like? We've got coffees, teas, or clear still water perhaps? No juices at the moment, I'm afraid, I'm not having carbohydrates and it'd be fiddling with the devil to buy juice and then attempt not to drink it. The coffee is good, though, yes?
One moment. I'd like to light the fireplace. Maybe it's technically Spring, but this "Spring" in West Germany is chilly and cold and damp and grey, right down into the bones. But pardon me, I'm near veering into complaint, which is the exact opposite of the place I want to go. I'd much rather pull up by the warm fire's glow with non-carbohydrate beverage-of-choice and muse a little about philosophy and psychology with you -- and maybe it'll even be productive for us?
Ah, the warmth is nice.