Did you ever notice that sometimes, if not often, you arrive late, even when you have carefully planned to arrive on time to a meeting, date, or appointment? Possibly, you are among those who are chronically late.
One reason for constant tardiness is that it’s extremely difficult to arrive on time, especially in large metropolitan areas. Unexpected traffic congestion, taking that last minute call, running back to the office or home to grab forgotten articles, are all impediments to being on time. Even the most time-conscious, careful planners can be undermined by these factors.
While this seems obvious at first, it’s really not that simple. One thing that makes this difficult is simply human nature: we simply don’t like waiting. We’re even trained to avoid any kind of waiting. We live in a world of instant, and any kind of waiting becomes unacceptable. We often go to great lengths to avoid waiting of any kind. Many businesses advertise no waiting.
Some people associate waiting with anxiety, so they avoid waiting of any kind. Some may worry that they are wasting valuable time doing something else, others may be afraid that the person they’re meeting won’t show up. One way to overcome this associated anxiety is to have something productive or enjoyable (such as reading, crossword, or soduku puzzle) to do while waiting to be on time.
Another impediment to punctuality is handling the last minute call. Did you ever notice that just as you’re about to leave for an appointment you often receive a phone call? How you handle that call can make the difference between being late or on time. Some don’t have the assertive skill it takes to simply say “I’m so glad you called, we need to talk, so I’ll call you right after my appointment.” That skill takes control of the situation. If you find it hard to extricate yourself once you’ve picked up the phone, you also have the option of not answering. The bottom line is that you cannot get hooked into taking that call.
Yet another obstacle to punctuality is doing just one more thing before leaving. Often though, that task, however small, can wind up taking longer than estimated, causing one to leave later than planned and arriving late. Conclusion: it’s a good idea to factoring an additional time cushion for leaving. In other words, be ready to leave before it’s time to leave. Sometimes we underestimate the amount of time it will take to get ready to leave. It often happens, telling ourselves we’re all ready to go, so that we have time for the one last thing – and then it turns out that it actually took longer to get ready – gathering papers together, closing computer files, grooming for men, and for women, make-up, finding the purse and keys. All those invisible activities actually take time.
Punctuality requires time management, and many of us have real misconceptions regarding time. An ancient philosopher, Theophrastus, said, “time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” When we waste other people’s time by forcing them to wait for us, we are doing them the great disservice of wasting their time. And when we arrive late for meetings, concerts, shows or other activities, we are sabotaging our own participation in valued activities. We need to use it carefully. Many people are not consciously aware that a clock can be a symbol of authority. No matter how quickly or slowly a person wants the clock to go, it follows its own pace. So if a person rebels against authority, they’re likely to rebel against time constraints and wind up being chronically late.
Some people use making others wait as establishing a one-up position. It’s like they’re communicating “I’m one-up, or more important than you.” Doctor’s offices are notorious for this.
So what are the payoffs of punctuality? Two important ones are that it’s an indicator of professionalism, and it’s respectful to the other person. These are certainly important in business. Another payoff is that it’s moral and ethical. As someone once said, ,“A man who has taken your time recognizes no debt, yet it is the only debt he can never repay.”
The solution? There is really only one guarantee that you arrive on time: factor in a time cushion to leave, and a cushion to arrive early and wait to be on time. The time cushion is actually an anxiety reducer.
Marc Gravelle, Certified Hypnotherapist