“If you are 15 minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late and if you are late, you didn’t want to be there.”
I once read an interesting story about George Washington and his being a stickler for punctuality. A prospective horse seller missed selling to him because he was 15 minutes late to their appointment.
Washington’s meetings with Congress were usually at noon, and he would be there at the very stroke of noon to the amazement of the lawmakers.
Guests whom he usually invited for dinner (he dined at exactly 4pm everyday) would arrive late and be flabbergasted to find the commander-in-chief practically done with his meal.
Punctuality is one of the main principles in personal and business life, and time has not in any way eroded the huge importance of being punctual. It essentially defines the individual because it is closely related to respect, discipline, integrity and decorum.
In Nigeria, rules of punctuality are largely observed in the breach, except on very rare occasions where enormous personal sacrifice is called upon, or huge selfish benefits are to be reaped. We explain things away under the lazily convenient “African time” cliche which should forgive our habitual tardiness. I once told a class of trainee managers that being punctual affects everything that we do – timing of meetings, engagements, school and down to making and keeping promises – and eventually molds our character.
What does punctuality really do for us?
1. It shows you are a person of integrity and can be trusted. Few things reveal more that you are a person of your word than keeping to time. People you deal with – family, friends and clients – can also depend on you because if you can habitually organise your own time, you can be counted on.
2. Punctuality helps you always bring your A-game. Imagine driving at break-neck speed, defying all the odds that crazy traffic throws at you, to arrive late for a job interview. Imagine if this is your routine in your day job. There’s no chance you’ll be able to get your act together, go through relevant stuff, and be at your best. One principal component of the indiscipline often associated with our overbloated civil service is the ingrained culture of lateness to everything.
3. Punctuality makes your discipline and humility shine through. Psychologists have made a direct connection between tardiness and haughtiness. Being punctual means that you value and respect those you are dealing with, and that you are disciplined enough to drop all else, get ready and arrive promptly.
4. Arriving for meetings, work, engagements etc late makes you a thief of time. By showing up late, you pilfer valuable time from your associates; time they would have invested wisely in making money or attending to personal and family needs.
5. How do these scenarios leave you feeling? Habitually picking up your child who feels abandoned late from school. Leaving a date waiting by himself / herself. Arriving the airport late to pick up a spouse or a guest whose plane touched down an hour ago. A lifestyle of perennial lateness makes people around you feel undervalued, unloved, even unwanted. This can take a big toll on personal and work life.
6. Imagine being the one who is always opening the old creaky door to the lecture room or a quiet meeting, because you are always late. Every single time you find yourself in such a situation, know that you are disturbing (if not ruining) the experience of other people.
We all have many virtues to aspire to in life. One of these (and one which is invaluable) is the art of punctuality. It does not matter if you eventually become an exemplar like George Washington in the story I mentioned above, who famously told his secretary, when the secretary blamed his wristwatch for his late arrival to work, “Then you must get another watch, or I another secretary.”
Noela is an Image Consultant and personal development trainer. She helps corporate organisations and individuals achieve high performance through her bespoke trainings, seminars and workshops. She is available to speak at your professional events. Reach her on 07030514885.