Lately I have begun to wonder if punctuality is my habit. Last week, I found myself racing to get to an appointment. It was then that I realized this was not uncommon behavior for me. Instead it’s a regular occurrence. While I am never late–well, almost never, I tend to get where I am going just in time rather than on time.
Living in Savannah, I am aware of “Savannah time.” No one is expected to show up early for a meeting or an event. If a meeting starts at ten o’clock, they arrive at ten o’clock, not a minute before. Others wander in at their leisure, sometimes with an apology and an excuse, but usually with little or no remorse. I feel myself on the verge of becoming one of those late-comers.
Indeed I do have an issue with punctuality. Maybe it’s really a matter of time management. Whatever, I don’t always practice what I preach.
I seem to think I can get one more thing done before I leave. In today’s fast-paced world, we always try to do more in less time. For example, if the phone rings just as I am walking out the door, I feel obligated to answer it. When I finally get in the car and check the clock; I realize that only with a bit of luck and all green lights, I may be on time.
Vince Lombardi on punctuality
Years ago I read a quote that is typically attributed to coaching icon Vince Lombardi. Regardless of who said it, the words have the same effect. “If you are five minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late, don’t bother to show up.”
The problem with being late
There are unintended consequences to being late. People who are chronically late send a message that their time is more valuable than other people’s. Those who don’t make an effort to be on time are seen as arrogant and inconsiderate. That sort of behavior won’t help your career or your business.
Suggestions to help you be on time and what to do when you aren’t.
Don’t stop to take the last phone call. You can check your voice mail later. If the call was important, the caller will have left a message.
Have everything you need for the meeting or event out and ready to go. Plan ahead so you aren’t scrambling around at the last minute trying to find one more thing—like your car keys or your cell phone.
Decide how long it will take you to get to the event and add some extra time. Allow for the unexpected like traffic jams, road construction and other unforeseen occurrences.
If you are not 100% sure where you are going, do a test run ahead of time if possible. No one will be impressed when you say you got lost. If you can’t check out the location in advance, again add in some extra travel time.
If the worst should happen and you enter the meeting late, quietly take a seat. This is no time to interrupt to make your apologies and to explain to everyone why you were late. No one really cares.
Check the agenda to see what items have already been covered. The late-comer who interrupts the meeting to ask about an issue that has already been discussed is never appreciated. Wait until the meeting is over to ask what you missed.
There is no excuse for being late. Barring true emergencies, being on time is completely within your control. Taking ownership of your time, knowing the importance of punctuality, and choosing never to be late again, is one easy thing you can do to change your life and career for the better.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. She is happy to work from home but has traveled as far as India and Dubai to help stamp out rudeness. Just think what a wonderful world it would be if people were simply nice. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com. Find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.