For about a year now, I've been very punctual. Before making a concerted effort to be on time to everything, I was like any other average person-- sometimes on time, often a few minutes late, occasionally very late. When I identify something I'm bad at, especially something with a prescription that requires little more than willpower, I get very excited about it. That isn't to say that there are so few of these things that they're hard to find, just that introspection can be difficult, making identifying personal weaknesses tricky.
My initial impetus to become punctual was partly that it was an easily correctable deficiency, and partly that it seemed like a trait of a champion. Would most people I admire show up on time to things? Yes, they would.
As I thought more about it, especially during the early phases where being on time was a bit of a challenge, I realized that punctuality is more than just being on time. It's an extension of your honesty.
It is very important to me to never lie. I'm not perfect, of course, but because this is such an important thing to me, I do a good job of it most of the time. When I thought about it, though, if I say that I'm going to be somewhere at ten thirty, and I show up at ten thirty-four, that's a lie. It's a small lie, but it's a lie nonetheless. Even small lies have an effect, both on others and myself.
A more tangible way to think of this sort of honesty is to call it trustworthiness. Let's say I have two friends, Bob and Rob. Bob always shows up to everything exactly on time. Rob sometimes shows up on time, but is sometimes late. Even with no other information, I'd be more likely to trust Bob with a secret or an important task.
Being on time is also a sign of respect. I feel respected when people show up to things on time, and I know others feel the same way. If I'm not willing to show someone the respect of showing up on time, should I really even be meeting up with them?
The first part of becoming punctual, like all habits, was to have a good reason for it. After mulling the above thoughts for a while, I came to the conclusion that being late was unacceptable.
Once the mental part was taken care of, the practice of being on time is very easy. All you have to do is show up five minutes early to everything, and then just read a kindle book on your phone until it's the exact right time. This is a very basic hack that will make you appear to have perfect timing.
Sometimes you get stuck at a long red, or you have to wait for a train, or you need an extra minute to find your keys. Giving yourself that five minute buffer allows for that, meaning that on average you're "paying" only three minutes per trip to be on time. That's a minor cost to become a punctual person and never feel rushed.
This is a beautiful and true perspective. It is an extension of honesty and respect. The struggle (for me personally) is that there is such beauty in being present and being tethered to time and numbers and everything being just according to plans is restrictive in many ways. Flexibility is so worthwhile. The other thought is that being late is not always avoidable...but it is often avoidable. It's all about communication right? Would you trust 'Rob' less if he was late, but always called before hand and knew he would be late and communicated that to you with notice?
I find it very annoying and disrespectful when people are (repeatedly) late. I often joke that I am Danish so I have to be 5-10 mins early, but it is really only half-way a joke, because in Denmark people tend to be on time. Since moving to Ireland 9 months ago I have been shocked at how casual people regard being late. I had an appointment with my doctor last week, and the receptionist was shocked at how "early" I was because I turned up 10 mins before my appointment (which would be expected of you in Denmark) - in the end I had to wait 45 mins, which really frustrated me.
2 thumbs up ...for showing up : )
Embrace the guys.
Speakers showering smiles on every new attendee with ' one more : ) '... The well-appointed cool about the battles of the mind, habits and weather ...fought by those who come late ...make a happy society.
Have, strike that, make it a nice time.
Completely agree MC. It is good to be on or before time failing which informing the person in advance is the way to go. Some people even put their watches 5-15m ahead although personally I don't advocate that idea since your brain does the adjustments:)
I am a huge proponent of being on time, and being late to something (especially something important) actually gives me anxiety. I think this has a lot to do with some of the reasons you talked about, especially pertaining to respect. When someone is very late to meet me and eventually shows up without reason or apology, I feel offended. I would never want to offend someone by being late to meet them, so I often give myself that 5 minute buffer time you wrote about. I think being late occasionally is totally understandable because no one can control the universe. In those situations where you know you'll be late, taking a couple minutes to call or text the person you're meeting to let them know you'll be late is the most respectful thing you can do.
Lovely Tynan. Nice exposition. I have been touching on this subject for some 15+ years and I always learn something new everytime.
I watched Sean Connery interviewed about this once. In his glorious brogue he pronounced, "A man should never be late. It's disrespectful." For some reason, it always stayed with me. (I chose to ignore, except for anecdotal purposes, his other assertion: "Sometimes, a woman needs a light cuff.")
Being on time is savvy. Make it a game. Know that you can do x, y, z and get where you're going...right on time. Music must be on time. Be on time.
I like your "why" better than your "how" - your time buffer needs to be implemented earlier in the process. For me, tardiness generally spawns from poor planning rather than poor execution. I sometimes pack my schedule so tight that there is no reasonable margin of safety if something unexpected happens or a meeting runs late. If I want to be 5 minutes early for my next appointment, I will need to cut my current engagement short. It's tough to be a disciplined scheduler and to accurately handicap your own (in)ability to estimate transit times etc.
It's also important to communicate expectations in advance - much better to tell someone in advance that you have another commitment later on than to abruptly leave them if you run over your anticipated time.
I agree, it is a matter of respect. But the interesting question is now: How do you call people on their disrespectful behavior, if they are not on time and/or repeatedly not on time?
My solution is quite simple: Just tell them. It may feel weird to say something about the 5 minutes they are late, but you can say it in a half-joking, half-serious way and simply change the topic immediately afterwards. Example: I meet people for climbing in the gym. They are 5 minutes late. I greet them and say with a smile:"You are 5 minutes late. [Short pause] Let's go climbing."
This way, I feel like I'm not making a big deal out of it, but I pointed it out and it might stick with them for the next time.
If it happens again, I'd joke around like: "It occurs to me that your internal clock is a bit off by 5 minutes. Or is it genetically? I hope it is not infectious" or something silly (edit: this still comes from a place of seriousness). And depending on their reply, I go either serious about it, keep joking or drop the topic.
If it really doesn't stick with them, I let them wait the next time.
If in a leadership role in any situation I would:
1) Share the concept of Tasks & Dependencies and how his coming after time put a spanner in tasks to be done (of his own and of the next guy too)
Subtle (even overt) communication of 'he is superman'. Superman needs to come on time : )
2) Share a story of how I too once came late for a situation and this put my boss (or even father, brother, friend!) in trouble... and how I now don't get late and keep my boss happy : )
Subtle fun communication ...of encouraging him to cross the same bridge (i.e. switch the habit.)
3) Invite him to share the story of how he got late and how he would suggest a solution so that the same spanner doesn't stop tasks from now. I concur "sounds good to me" to his suggestion when I see the suggestion as a good one. And shake hands. I thank him (for his story, suggestion and time.)
As a leader, I am the brain and I have to streamline. By sharing I don't come across as an authoritarian. By thanking I come across as someone friendly and approachable.
When its all friends ...climbing in gym ...I stop my mind and totally focus on making a good time. The only thing I allow my mind to be bothered upon in such situations is safety.
Most important stuff:
Like a plane... use 5 computers ...each operating on different platforms, and 2 or more engines... one stops the others ensure smooth ride.
If the guy is your right hand man (2nd engine) he needs to know in so many words - you depend on him and he depends on you for things to fly.
Thanks : )
This is going to be the first article in a brand new category called "Social Skills" added to my seemingly-random category list. This series is especially for you pick up people out there. In my time teaching, I always had a good feeling for who would be successful and who would not be, way before we ever went out.
The reason was that some people had blatantly bad social skills. Face it - if you can't interact with GUYS properly, you're starting with girls with a major handicap. So here we're going to talk about everything from e-mail to gift giving. What's first on our radar? Being late. Read on...
Some people are notoriously late for everything. I used to be one of those people myself. But over time it annoyed me when people were late so much that I put in the work and changed that habit. That's not to say that I'm ALWAYS on time. Sometimes it's better to be a little late, and sometimes there are unforseen circumstances. But make no mistake - everyone notices how timely everyone else is, and this can be used to your advantage. Here's a list of common situations, and how prompt to be for each.
A couple days ago, I told a Nigerian engineer to "Work online. Use freelancing sites. Lie about the country you’re in. [...] There’s a big stigma against Nigeria. That’s just reality, and you need to deal with it."
A reader replies -
I feel for this guy but I am surprised you recommend lying. There has to be another way. ... I have a problem with lying, period, and perhaps I’ve misunderstood Sebastian but I think he stands for straightforwardness.
Let's talk about this straightforwardly, like adults, like grown-ups.
Most people won't do that. It's inherently weird. Most people don't own up to the fact that they lie, yet almost everyone does so. A lot, actually.