Punctuality. A sometimes overlooked piece of the character puzzle, punctuality deserves our ardent attention. Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time.” (quotationreference.com) I believe you’ll see why this is so important as we dive into it. Punctuality has been defined by Character First as showing esteem for others by doing the right thing at the right time. At the root it’s about showing esteem for others. Everything else flows from that. On the other hand, being late is actually a way to demonstrate a lack of value for others. The person who is late ultimately says to himself, “It’s ok if they wait on me,” and when we stop and think about the underlying thought beneath that statement, it becomes clear that the root of it is not very attractive. It essentially says, “I am more important than you,” or “my time is more important than your time.” You may not have thought of it like that before, but if someone is waiting on you or me, and the mistake was avoidable, then we have made the error in believing that we are more important than they are.
When I was in junior high, my dad taught my cousin and me the importance of punctuality. We were in his church youth choir, and I remember him saying that if you were late, to understand how late you truly were, you needed to multiply your tardiness by how many people were waiting on you. So if you were 15 minutes late, and there were 20 kids in the youth choir, then you were 300 minutes, or 5 hours late. That didn’t make sense to us at the time, but it does now. The point is to appreciate the effect your lateness had on each individual person, rather than, for example, justifying to yourself, “Well I was only a few minutes late for the bus of 40 people waiting on me to leave.”
I like Philippians 2:3,4, which says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (ESV)
I believe thinking about punctuality in this way is helpful, and it can motivate us to make the needed changes to put this important trait into practice. So what about some practical helps? If this is something that doesn’t come naturally to you, then here are some suggestions that may help.
- Establish a routine: keep your keys, wallet, cell phone, and anything else that you will need the next time you leave the house in the same place, every time. Build this habit and it will help keep you from last minute hunting.
- Plan ahead. Figure out what you’re going to wear the night before.
- Start with a good night’s sleep. My dad would always say that the morning begins in the evening. What he meant was how we handle the evening sets the course for the morning.
- Estimate reasonably how long it will take you to get ready. Don’t base it off of how long you think it should take you to get ready, but how long it usually takes you. Add 15 minutes and make that time frame your plan.
- Once you have decided on a start time to begin getting ready, stick to it. When that time comes, be diligent to stop whatever activity you are doing. Don’t tell yourself that a few minutes won’t hurt. Stick to the plan and you’ll be glad you did.
- As for your drive, be realistic about how long it will take. Don’t assume that you will make every light, but estimate reasonably.
(I referred to thetimedoctor.co.uk for help with these tips.)
I hope you have found this encouraging and helpful. I know it has been helpful for me to reflect on these things. The last thing I want to encourage you with is that you can do it! Determine that this is going to be a part of your life and you will reap the blessings from it.