Swiss Army Watch

Why are you late?

Time management begins with one of the absolute basics – arrive on time. In his book Copy This!, the founder of Kinko’s (now FedEx Kinko’s) Paul Orfalea recounts that he would make hiring decisions based on key basic modes of operating. One of those is being punctual. I’m sure that Mr. Orfalea isn’t the only one making career decisions based on being on time and other fundamentals of operating in a business context.

If you’re not the one, you undoubtedly know people who show up late. Sometime they cause a group of people to stop their momentum while the latecomer is brought up to speed. Those on time drum their fingers (figuratively if not actually), change their train of thought and engage in other time filling activities while the latecomer is briefed. I have heard those who were interrupted mumbling under their breath, rolling their eyes, and give other negative feedback – even if the latecomer can hear or see them.

Here are the negative associated with people that arrive late:

  • Latecomers are holding up others and hurting the productivity of everyone who has to wait
  • Latecomers are demoralizing those who do bother to show up on time. This sometime starts a chain reaction where everyone starts showing up 5 then 10 then 15 minutes late to the detriment of all.
  • Showing up late disrespects others’ time. It is interpreted as ‘The latecomer thinks he is more important or has better things to do than I do.’
  • Other people extend lateness to meeting to expect tardiness in other arenas such as project deadlines. Thus, managers label late comers as high maintenance and dependant on others since the manager infers latecomers will be unreliable to be self-regulating. The manager has additional work to check on the work of the late contributor.
  • Late people start a domino affect that can set entire groups, departments, and projects back. That hurts reputations as well as budgets and plans.
  • Latecomers can get a reputation as ‘in need of attention’, ‘show boater’, ‘egomaniac’, and more.

Some of the positives associated with people who are on time and early: These attributes may not be earned but they are applied as an extension of being on time.

  • They’re reliable and easy to count on.
  • They won’t let a person, manager, or department down.
  • They can be trusted with important (career building) activities and responsibilities.
  • They are predictable in a positive way.
  • They are proactive and contributors.
  • They are conscientious.

If being on time is an opportunity for development for you consider these steps down the path to being on time:

  • Mentally reprogram yourself to arrive 5 minutes early to every meeting. Put them on your calendar for 10 minutes before start time. For example, a 2:00pm meeting is put as 1:50pm on your calendar.
  • Practice exit strategies so you leave previous commitments with enough time to get to the next one.
  • Do not stop at your computer to check email just before a meeting.
  • Plan your usual departure to a meeting and leave 10 minutes “early.”
  • Call if it’s the rare occasion that you’re running late.
  • DO NOT set your watch or clocks 5 or 10 minutes ahead. The rest of the world runs on real time so you need to synchronize with actual time.
  • Set alarms in your computer calendar to remind you to wrap-up current work and get off to a meeting on time.
  • Visualize the possible surprise and recognition you’ll receive for leading by arriving early.

Susan Sabo is the creative mind at Productivity Cafe. She works with clients to help them get more done and to get home at a reasonable time. Susan learned punctuality from her Dad who is always 10 minutes early.

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