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.