Friday, March 13, 2015

How To Be More Punctual

When last I wrote a post about punctuality, I did not explain how one might go about acquiring this highly desirable habit. As I have done in previous posts on the topic I tried to emphasize its importance.

If you don’t think being punctual matters, you will ignore all advice, good, bad and indifferent.

For those who are looking for advice about how to be more punctual, Time Magazine has offered assistance. In a succinct article Time lists the habits that are practiced by people who are systematically on time… who do not keep others waiting.

Some of this is intuitively clear. Much of it comes to us from cognitive treatment models.

I underscore that today’s psychotherapy is less involved with insight and more with developing good habits to replace bad ones. I have often opined on the topic, so today I will merely outline the good habits that you should acquire if you aspire to punctuality.

First… get up when it’s time to get up.

Delaying your inevitable exit from your bed is a bad habit. To overcome it you might start by placing you alarm clock on the other side of the room. If you have to get out of bed to turn off the alarm you will be less likely to hit the snooze button and try to catch a few more ZZZZs.

Second… routinize your morning activities.

Plan what you are going to eat for breakfast and what you are going to wear the next day before you go to bed.

Better yet, if you eat the same thing every morning and take the same path to work you will be reducing the number of decisions you need to make and will be acting more efficiently and effectively.

It is best that you do not wear the same  outfit every day, but you should decide on what to wear—even laying out the outfit—before you retire for the night.

Third… know how long it will take to complete a task.

Evidently, this means that you should make a realistic assessment of the amount of time you will need to read those reports or to run through the spreadsheet… it’s called time management.

You might write down how long you think a task will take, and then time yourself with your new Apple watch. If you are underestimating the time it takes to complete tasks, add a few minutes to your assessment.

Fourth… counteract delaying tactics.

If you waste time every morning trying to find your keys or your electronic gadgets, always put them in the same place. The same for your sunglasses, your hat, your walking stick etc.

Fifth… overcome the fear of being early, and of having nothing to do while you are waiting.

Apparently, many people arrive at meetings late because they are afraid of the downtime. They might also be afraid to be alone in a room.

If that spells you, bring something that will fill the time and will feel productive. Reading material or work related emails are better than video games or internet porn.

Sixth… when it’s time to leave for an appointment, leave.

If you are unsure about how much time it will take to go from here to there, factor in a delay. It’s better to be early than late.

If you are doing something else when the appointed hour arrives, drop it. Do not trick yourself into thinking that you can still eke out enough time to accomplish one more task.

Next time you will plan more wisely.

Always keep in mind: it’s not about you, about what you can accomplish and how close you can cut corners. It’s about being on time. It’s better to see it as a sacred duty, to yourself and to your friend.

People who are chronically late are asserting how busy they are and how important they are. Their tardiness insults their friends and colleagues, thus making it more difficult to sustain a friendship or to do business.

If you cannot show up on time, what makes me think that you will deliver the candlesticks when you say that you will.

Seventh, don’t schedule yourself to the minute.

Give yourself a little time to breathe between meetings and tasks. You should not have the feeling that you are always fighting the clock and always either throwing someone out of your office or making someone wait.

Eighth… make plans and stick to them.

Time explains:

[Punctual people] map out their days, often down to the minute—including elevator time, walking time, and even the traffic and weather, meaning they are rarely delayed. If you’ve yet to become this precise, Morgenstern has a fix: Time yourself completing routine tasks three days in a row. Find out how long it takes you to get from bed to out the door, and then from the door of your office building to your desk, with a stop at the coffee machine on the way. Soon, you’ll become a time master, too.

Assuming that you underestimate the amount of time it takes to have breakfast or get dressed or brush your teeth or turn off the lights before you leave, try putting yourself on the clock.

In that way you will be testing your perception against reality. Always a good idea. And you can do it without introspecting.

Ninth… maximize your performance by knowing your strengths and weaknesses.

Do you work best in the morning or the evening or mid-afternoon? Once you figure it out, calculate the amount of time you will need to complete a task as a function of the time of day. You might work best in the morning. Thus, if you have put off a task  until the evening, you should know that it will take you longer to complete. Plan accordingly.

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

All good advice. I'm probably a chronic straggler, and enabled by a life that doesn't need hourly scheduling to survive, but perhaps because of this, I compensate by paying close attention to time when it affects others.

But I confess a vice of attentive time management is the better I am at estimating time, the more I feel free to make my margins of error smaller. So I'll feel bad when I'm a few minutes late for unforeseen delays, but not enough to change my ways.

I do also tend to bring a book or notebook with me, if I'm early or have to wait somewhere, and it means I don't have to be annoyed of someone else is running behind schedule. Then I get a chance to be magnanimous, and hopefully earn some karma against my own mistakes.

A related issue is if someone is chronically late, how do you communicate to them that this affects you, like on the question of manners, how do you "shame" them, without guilt-tripping them?

My boss for instance will stop a meeting and greet someone who enters after it starts, so then everyone puts their attention onto the straggler, and while no excuse is required, its not going to be instantly forgotten either.

Another example, at my Toastmaster club, after having a problem with starting meetings on time we called for an official 20 minute social period for before the meeting, so some people would come last minute, and some could come "early" without feeling like they'd be alone and bored. So that seemed to help allow for different needs.