My parents are punctual to a fault. I remember us often showing up to parties and social gatherings before the hosts were even dressed or the appetizers were prepared. It didn’t seem awkward to me at the time, but I’m sure the host would have preferred she had a little more space as she took a shower and got dressed.
While there are less formal times when casually late is appropriate, it is never a good thing when people are working together to get things done. As a great mentor of mine once said, “90% of success in life is showing up on time and being prepared.”
My parents instilled in me the importance of being on time. They believed it to be disrespectful to others to be late, as though somehow your time was more valuable or that you just didn’t respect theirs. While I doubt this is usually the case, I have certainly felt very frustrated waiting on team members and colleagues who are constantly running late.
Becoming more punctual requires a change of mindset. You will develop an acute sense of value and respect for other people’s time by making the best use of yours… which means showing up on time and being prepared.
Regardless of traffic, mis-set alarm clocks or faulty office equipment, we’re all accountable for our decisions and actions. Once we accept this perspective, we acquire the power to stop showing up late or even at the last second.
Try these 8 simple keys to being punctual, and ensure that no opportunities are lost because of an inability to get from point a to point b on time:
1 – Create space in your calendar
I like to create cushion time in my calendar. When I schedule an appointment, I add a buffer at the beginning and end of 15 minutes. This ensures that I don’t schedule too tight, preventing me from leaving one appointment in time to get to the next. It also creates space at the end of my meetings to stay present throughout and transition to my next meeting with ease.
2 – Stay away from email and voicemail
Try not to check your texts, email or voicemail just before appointments or meeting time. There are no greater distractors, and urgent requests will often take you off task, disorient you a bit and prevent you from properly engaging with whatever you’re supposed to be doing. I would suggest blocking off separate, stand-alone time each day for dealing with these critical yet sometimes distractive tools.
3 – Learn to use downtime
I believe it is a good practice to arrive early for meetings. When you do this, you will often have some extra time to use for your benefit. This could be great for final meeting prep or planning your upcoming schedule. I often use this time to read or perform research. It can also be a great time to meditate or simply relax to create some space in your day and regain perspective.
4 – Set reminders
This seems like an intuitive suggestion, but I’m amazed at how many people do not use this simple and effective tool. Within your calendar, make sure the default settings create reminders prior to your meeting. You will be amazed at how many times this will save you. (Hint: Set reminders for one hour beforehand!)
5 – Give yourself room for error
Too many people are overly optimistic about traffic, their ability to get to the right location and the time required to get situated and ready for a meeting, appointment, even a date. They give themselves no room for error. When you have something important to get to, think worst-case scenario, and if you get there early, take advantage of your quiet downtime to prepare, breathe, and recharge.
6 – Be realistic with travel time
My wife is from a Latin culture, and without getting too personal, let’s just say that punctuality is a constant pain point in our household. I am continually amazed at the estimates she provides to get somewhere. In her mind, miles equate to minutes, which is almost never the case in reality. Make sure to be realistic with your required travel time. Use your navigation device to get an estimate, then add 10 minutes for getting to and from the car (or rousing yourself from a siesta).
7 – Plan the night before
It is an extremely good habit to look at the next day’s calendar every night. Make sure your day is spaced correctly and make adjustments if necessary. If things are tight, try to push a meeting or appointment back, which is much more respectful than trying to change it last minute or showing up late.
8 – Prepare in advance
For many meetings, you need to have presentations or documents prepared. Contrary to what many of us learned in school, it’s never a good idea to wait till the last minute. It is unbelievable how many things can wrong with a printer in your moment of greatest need! Ideally, have everything printed and prepared the night before. Make sure you’ve got everything you need in advance so your energy and attention can be focused on being fully present in the meeting.
Every opportunity we have to interact with others is truly an opportunity to take critical steps towards the lives of our dreams. Whether it’s the creation of new ideas, the development of plans or simply healthy discussion that fosters new perspectives, this co-creative energy can make our lives exponentially greater then what we experience and accomplish on our own.
A little discipline and work on your part can allow you to show up on time, be engaged and fully leverage the colleagues, partners and friends in your life. By simply being there, you’ll be opening doors that never would have been available if you were stuck in traffic or otherwise late for that life-changing chance at synergy.