Is punctuality important?
My first question is this: is punctuality actually important?
I think it’s really important and here’s why.
Firstly, being late is unacceptable to me.
Simply put, it’s rude and it’s selfish.
And for that reason alone, I hate being late almost as much as I hate waiting on people who turn up late.
For me, being late is like saying that your time is more valuable than the time of the person waiting for you.
Being late can ruin relationships with friends, colleague and clients.
So, punctuality is kind of a virtue in that sense.
But being on time is more than just a common courtesy. It’s a sign of respect, dependability and integrity. It shows an appreciation and a tacit acknowledgement of how much you value someone else’s time.
To others, it can be indicative of professionalism, diligence and reliability.
And being on time does not require any qualifications, training or special talent.
Above all though, punctuality is simply good time management.
Because, within the context of effective time management, which after all, is what this blog is all about, I have noticed that the discipline and habit of punctuality extend way beyond just agreeing to meet someone and arriving there at the time agreed.
Those who are punctual usually seem to manage other areas of their life well too. Bills are paid on time, projects completed before the deadline, promises are kept, commitments fulfilled. Generally, punctuality in a person is a good indicator that they manage their time well, that they’re organized and efficient.
The flip side of that coin is that if you always pay little attention to being on time, how much care and attention goes into other areas of your life?
Note that I write this as someone coming from the UK, where being late is almost universally viewed as quite rude and considered bad etiquette. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the same to be true in places like the USA, Germany and many other countries.
I’ve also been to places like Spain and Greece where nobody ever seems to be on time – ever – and everyone is okay about it. It’s just part of the culture and I’m not making any insinuations about efficiency and productivity in those countries, but the chances are, if you’re reading this, you live in a country where you can’t just turn up to meet a client “whenever” or drop your kids off at school when you get around to it.
Society is built around schedules and if everyone just rocked up to meetings and to work and their appointments whenever they felt like it, it would be chaos.
What can you do to be more punctual?
If you are somebody that is consistently late, don’t despair – it is definitely a habit that you can break if you apply yourself. Here are some steps you can take that should help:
1. Take accountability – own the problem
2. Understand others’ perception of you when you are late
3. Acknowledge the benefits of punctuality
4. Assess how you are managing your day
5. Create a new habit of arriving early
Below I have outlined seven action points that should assist you in becoming more punctual. However, it is recommended that you address your time management as a whole in order to crush the habit of being late all the time.
A good way to assess your perception of time and how you are currently using your time is to carry out a little audit.
First, make a list of how long you think several of your daily tasks take. For example:
- Cleaning teeth
- Getting dressed
- How long it takes to get the kids dressed
- Eating breakfast
- Making coffee
- Commute to work
- Dropping kids off to school
Then carry around a timer and a little notepad (or use a notes app on your phone) to record how long each of these tasks actually take.
Try to do this for a few days to get an average. You might find that there is some discrepancy between some of the estimates and the actual times, which will give you some insight into how you perceive time.
This should then help you to manage your time more effectively in future.
Check out this post: How To Audit Your Time >>>
2. Create a schedule
If everything you need to do on any given day is just floating around your head without any structure or priority, it’s unlikely that you’ll be anywhere on time.
The best way to organise your time and minimize the chances of being late is to have a well-scheduled day.
Use a planner, a to-do list and a schedule. Be realistic with your scheduling.
Cehck out this post: How To Create A Schedule >>>
3. Use buffers
There’s a saying, “If you’re on time, you’re late.”
So, early is on time.
When you are planning to be somewhere, don’t plan to get there at the agreed time. Plan to get there earlier than agreed.
If you work to a schedule, make sure you have buffers.
Something most people who are always late have in common is that they don’t plan for contingencies.
For example, if it is possible to get to the airport in thirty minutes when the road and weather conditions are ideal, they will plan for that scenario in mind only.
They will overlook rushing around looking for their passport or keys as they need to head out of the door, the traffic, the train arriving late, the queues and any other number of things that could happen on the way.
Aim to arrive early. When you get there, you can always use the time to catch up on some reading.
4. Time awareness
It is true that some people are just not good at estimating time and duration.
And, of course, sometimes it depends on the environment you’re in.
I remember attending a lecture once that started at 3 pm and when I looked at my watch two hours’ later in was only ten past three. (Badum tishhhh.)
We can often underestimate how long things will take (see the ‘planning fallacy‘) and may not even be good at estimating what time of day it is.
To overcome this, the best thing to do is to work on your time awareness.
Part of this can be done by carrying out an audit of your times outlined above and assessing how long tasks take in reality compared with how long you thought they take. You could also do a comprehensive audit of your time to understand exactly where your time goes each day.
Another way to maintain awareness is simply to place a clock in every room. You may think this is not necessary since we all have mobile phones with clocks, but from experience, an actual (analogue) clock on the wall has far more impact.
Plus, mobile phones are often a distraction when we need to do other tasks, so if you can prevent yourself from looking at it unnecessarily, that’s a good thing.
5. Everything in its place
Always keep things in their place.
Running around looking for your purse or your keys is a sure-fire way to make yourself late when you may have otherwise been on time.
Keep the things you need when you leave the house in the same place and you can rely on them being where you left them and you will also just pick them up on autopilot.
If you have important stuff you need to remember for the next day, put it by the door, or even better right in front of the door. It’s difficult to forget it when you trip over it or have to move it to leave the house.
6. Set your goal
Start with making punctuality your main goal of the week. Before anything else, your goal is to be on time. Consider the benefits punctuality brings both you and others.
Give this challenge a go and see how you do.
7. Use reminders
Regardless of how good your memory is, keeping everything in your head is not the best way to ensure you get where you need to be on time.
Of course, you don’t need a reminder that your kids need to be dropped off at school at 8 am, but if you have a meeting scheduled in your calendar, make sure you also have a reminder alarm set too.
Distractions happen all the time and alarms and reminders will hep to keep you aware of where you need to be next.
Time Hack Hero Takeaway
Of course, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances beyond your control, but 99% of the time, being late is caused by poor time management and poor planning.
And that is something you can definitely control.
Don’t be that annoying person that is always late.
Don’t be that inconsiderate person that makes others wait for you.
Get organized and use the information on Time Hack Hero to get your time management sorted! 🙂