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Punctuality Counts

Punctuality Counts

Punctuality Counts

    For years, I could be counted on to be late. Got a lunch meeting at 11:30 am? Dustin will be there at 11:40. Got a class at 9:00am? Dustin will be there at 9:20. Is there a meeting at 6:00 pm? Dustin’s there by 6:30. Work hours are 8:30 am to 5 pm? I’m in by 9:00.

    People joked about it. It was my “thing” — I was on “Dustin time”. It was all very funny — until I realized that the same people that joked about it showed, time and again, that they didn’t trust me to get things done — that, indeed, they saw me as an incompetent person who couldn’t even get it together enough to be on time.

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    Being punctual matters, at least in today’s Western societies. Being on time, every time, conveys far more than just a good sense of timing. It tells people that you’re on top of things, that you’re organized, that you can be counted on, that you value them, and, ultimately, that you value yourself.

    Punctuality shows mastery

    Being on time consistently shows everyone around you that you are the master of your life. It demonstrates foresight — the ability to predict possible hang-ups — and adaptability — the ability to change your plans to accommodate those hang-ups.

    On the other hand, being late all the time shows that you are a victim of the winds of fate, that you’re incapable of anticipating possible problems and either dealing with them or altering your course to avoid them. It sends the message that you’re harassed by time, not in control of it.

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    Punctuality shows competence

    Someone who shows, over and over, that they are the master of their time is someone who will be taken seriously in areas far removed from time management. That foresight and adaptability that gets you where you need to be, when you need to be there, tells the people around you that you can handle whatever is thrown at you.

    Conversely, people assume that if the chronically late person can’t even consider the possibility of a little extra traffic, s/he won’t be able to consider other obstacles that might stand in the way of getting a project or task done.

    Punctuality shows integrity

    Punctuality is also a trust issue. When you make an appointment, you are making a commitment to be where you said you’d be when you said you’d be there. The only way you build up other people’s trust in you is by consistently meeting your commitments — and that starts with being punctual. The person who is always on time is someone others can trust to be as good as their word.

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    In contrast, the person who is perpetually late is, plain and simple, someone who lies to you repeatedly. You said you’d be here at 9 o’clock, but you’re not here; if your word isn’t good enough about something as trivial as showing up on time, how can your word be any good about anything more important?

    Punctuality shows you value people

    People are busy — too busy to be waiting on you while their other work goes unfinished. Being punctual shows, clearly and truly, that you value their time and, by extension, that you value them as a person. It says, “Let’s make this time we’ve arranged as productive as possible so we can both get on with all our other important stuff.”

    Compare that with the attitude of the chronically late person who, when confronted, says, “But I’m always on time for the things that are important.” The message this sends is that, when I’m late, it’s because I really don’t feel that whatever I’m late for is all that important — if it were a date with a cute woman or man I met at the Starbucks, I’d have been on time; if it were a Moby concert, I’d have been on time; but since it’s just a meeting about the status of the big project I’m working on, I feel I can be late.

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    There’s another kind of always-late person: the person who makes a “big entrance”, using their lack of punctuality to show their status. Let’s face it — showing off your importance by having other people sit and wait on you clearly says “you’re not important to me.” And everyone knows the solution — don’t show up, or wait until the moment’s just right, and stab that high-and-mighty loser in the back. If you like to make the grand entrance, don’t worry — someday soon you’ll make a grand entrance to an empty room.

    Punctuality shows you value yourself

    Finally, being on time shows you value your time — and yourself. First of all, being repeatedly late is a self-destructive behavior — why else would you risk not landing the big client, losing your job, or insulting those around you? And everyone knows that most self-destructive behavior follows from low self-esteem. Even if it’s not true, that’s the perception you’re allowing others.

    Second of all, punctuality shows that your time is too valuable to waste stuck in traffic, on the phone dealing with trivial matters, or otherwise occupied in anything other than the business at hand. Being late demonstrates, plainly and clearly, that you’re interruptible, that your work is never as high a priority as whatever trivial thing comes along, and that you’re unwilling to set priorities in your own life. If that’s the case, why should anyone else care about your time? Why shouldn’t they interrupt you whenever they feel like it, dump meaningless busy-work on you, or dismiss you entirely?

    It took me a while to figure all this out (late to the party, as usual) but once I did, I made a concerted effort to be on time — or, usually, early — for every appointment. With few exceptions, I am on time, too — and every exception is an opportunity for me to learn how better to manage the same circumstances next time.

    If you’re perpetually late, it’s time to stop — right now, not 10 minutes from now. Consider the message you’re sending to those around you, and consider the message you’d like to be sending, and act immediately to match those two up.

    More by this author

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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