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.