“Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” Whether you were raised on this mantra or it’s your first time reading it, we all know that being on time is not only important in most cases, it’s the right thing to do. However, many of us find ourselves conveniently invalidating the importance of punctuality when it comes to our own actions, choices, and behaviors. It’s easy to make excuses, and the stray incidence where an external or unseen circumstance results in being late is understandable, but we all know people for whom being punctual is the exception, and late the norm. Maybe we even are “those people,” but I’m here to tell you that as the quote says — it’s unacceptable. The good news is that being punctual is a learned behavior, and it’s something that can be easily improved upon with the right mindset! So, let’s dive into it.
We first need to understand the importance of punctuality and the implications of being late. Think of someone you know in your life, a family member or colleague perhaps, who is consistently late. Whether it be arriving to events at the appropriate time, submitting important documents, or following up on a responsibility; this person is either cutting it close or missing the deadline. How do you feel about them? Would you hire them to do a service for you, or trust them to take on an important task? Probably not, or at least not without some hesitation. They could be the most skilled person at their trade but their lack of punctuality signals to others that they have self-control issues or are prone to mismanaging responsibilities. Now, I want you to imagine a time when you have been late, did you feel flustered or insecure? These feelings are not exclusively internal, they are oftentimes sensed by those around you as well. If frequently occurring enough, these traits can become a defining characteristic of yours, and not one that will earn you many new clients or business prospects. Lastly, there’s no skirting around it, being late is rude. A family member of mine liked to say, “If I’m late, that’s my problem, don’t wait for me and go about your business.” If only we lived in a world where our actions had no effect on the people around us! Being late indicates to others that you do not value their time, and in turn, do not value what they could be doing with it. In other words, they aren’t as valuable as you.
If being punctual is something we all know to be important, why is it that we don’t always adhere to it? There are a few reasons people tend to be chronically late, with the most common one being a lack of organization. We hear and experience it all the time, “I couldn’t find my car keys/wallet/phone!” or “I had the wrong address.” There are a number of preventable situations like these that can be avoided by taking the time to be more organized. Another hinderance to punctuality is falling prey to distractions. If you can’t dedicate enough time to fill out an important document in a single sitting, the odds of that document being forgotten are much higher than if you were to fill it out and send it where it needs to go all at one time. Finally, would you believe that sometimes we may cause ourselves to be late on-purpose? There is an adrenaline rush that accompanies the feeling of barely “making it by.” A crisis is an excellent motivator, and for some, creating their own crisis by waiting until the last second is just the excitement they need to begin a task.
Regardless of why it is that you have a tendency to be late, there are things you can do to improve your ability to be on time. Here are a few tips for being more punctual.
- Make punctuality a priority. This is the conscious decision that you want to be on time for something. Acknowledge obstacles and decide between what is important and what can wait if you find yourself pressed for time, keeping in mind that being late is not an option.
- Set yourself up for success. This is the best strategy for those who find themselves late due to a lack of organization. Personally, I find it nearly effortless to set my clothes out in the evening for the next day, whereas that simple task is suddenly much more difficult, time consuming, and stressful at 6am when the alarm goes off. Take a moment to think about what sets you back, and prepare as much as you can ahead of time.
- Change your perception of being early. In western culture especially there tends to be an odd association between being early and being “too eager” or “uncool.” This is unsubstantiated in most circumstances, especially in the professional world. Arriving 10-15 minutes early for something will rarely have negative results, and if you find yourself arriving even earlier, continue on to our next point…
- Be ok with waiting. Many of us have a fear of having to wait or finding ourselves with “empty” time. How many occasions have you delayed leaving the house because you knew you may arrive early for something, only to push it to the last minute and barely make it? It’s ok to arrive somewhere and have time to grab a coffee or read the news before heading in to where it is that you’re going. These days with smartphones we always have something to entertain our time anyhow.
- Set reminders. This is crucial for those who find themselves victim to distraction. If you know how long it takes you to get somewhere, or have a deadline for doing something, set an alarm or reminder. The Google Maps app allows you to type in where you want to go and when you want to arrive, and it will ping you to let you know when you need to leave the house (it even adjusts for traffic!).
Albeit, no one is 100% punctual 100% of the time, but it’s a wonderful practice to have. Being on time will only make your life easier, and will give others the opportunity to focus on your skills and good character, as opposed to doubting your time-keeping abilities.
Projects and Events Coordinator
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128