I was always proud to be a very punctual person: never late, always early … until I met one of my business associates who was much, much better: never late, never early, always on time! Irrespective of the location or time of day, he always reported for meetings just 5 minutes before the appointed time. The best part was he seemed to do it effortlessly! On my request, he readily shared the secret of his punctuality:
A person can be punctual only if she/he is passionate about being punctual. A person can be passionate about something only if she/he believes in it. So, before asking How, we must ask Why.
Why do I want to be punctual? Punctuality is all about efficient utilisation of a non-renewable resource called Time! Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. Time cannot be created, but time can be destroyed by not using it! Each day contains 24 hours or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. It’s up to me to use these 86,400 seconds. If I use my time efficiently, I can get much more work done in the same amount of time, or it could mean I can complete my work in less time, leaving more time for family, friends and myself. So, it’s in my own interests not to waste my time. As a responsible person, I should also not cause another person to waste her/his time.
I know that my punctuality gives signals to others about my character, integrity, self-respect, dependability, discipline, humility, etc., and this improves my professional prospects. But this is only an added benefit.
Avoiding latecoming is fine! But why do I avoid being early? If I arrive too early for a meeting, I would make my host uncomfortable about making me wait. This is especially true in case of personal matters. For example, if my friends have invited us for dinner at their house at 8.00 pm, we make it a point to reach between 7.55 pm and 8.00 pm. If we reach too early, our hosts may still be getting ready!
How do I manage to be on time? For example, I have to be at your office at 3.30 pm. If I’ll be coming from my office, I know it would normally be a 45 minute drive at that time. I add a buffer of 10 minutes and leave my office at 2.35 pm. I drive at a leisurely speed, without any pressure. At the Nehru Nagar junction, if I’m on schedule or ahead of schedule, I continue driving at a leisurely speed. If I’m behind schedule, I drive slightly faster, within the speed limits of course! In any case, I would reach your office building by 3.20 pm, giving me sufficient time to reach your office around 3.25 pm. If I happen to reach early, I wait down till it’s 3.20 pm, then walk towards your office. In the meanwhile, I make phone calls. By any chance, if I’m delayed, I would inform you as soon as I know that I’m going to be delayed, and leave it to you to reschedule the meeting to later that day or some other day. There was one instance when I was caught in a massive traffic jam, and I could not call my customer from my mobile phone because I was driving. I reached my customer’s office 30 minutes late, but my reputation as a stickler for punctuality saved me. My customer was not upset at having been kept waiting. He was confident that I had been stuck in unusually heavy traffic, and that I had not telephoned him because I would not use my mobile phone while driving! To summarise, make a realistic commitment, plan well, have a buffer. Despite this, if there’s a delay, inform as soon as possible.