Tips for Punctuality

On 11/01/2009, in Professionalism, by Jordan Wilson

Tips for improving punctuality?

Unfortunately, I tend to shake my head at many of the standard tips for eliminating lateness.

Wear a watch or have clocks displayed in every room, so you always know the time. Even better, set your watch 10 minutes early so that you are always ahead of schedule. Okay, but most late employees I know wear watches or have clocks close at hand. Having your watch set 10 minutes early only works if you do not know that it is 10 minutes early. Plus, I am not sure how that helps with traffic jams, slow busses, jammed printers, etc.

Do not oversleep. Notice how much time your work readiness takes in the morning. If you can get up on time and be more realistic on how long it takes to shower, dress and eat, things will improve.

Another “good” one is keeping your keys where you can always find them. Presumably missing keys are a big reason for lateness.

If you are somebody who is late because you oversleep, do not have access to a watch or constantly lose your keys, may I suggest you are under the age of 16 or that you have bigger issues to address than how to improve your career at work.

However, I do think there are some good ways to better ensure you being on time for appointments in the business world.

1. Use a single calendar system that links with all your electronic tools. Then, make sure it is properly synched. By keeping all your tasks and meetings in one virtual location, you will always have your schedule at hand. As well, there will be no missing items, so you can readily see conflicts.

2. When scheduling appointments, try to match them in a logical manner. If you have a meeting across town, why not try and slot in another appointment in that same building before or after the first one. If you have an important meeting at 2:00 p.m., see if you can block off the time from 1:00 until 2:00 to ensure there are no distractions prior to your meeting.

3. Be realistic when setting your time frames. Work assignments and meetings, like showers and breakfasts, are never as quick as you may think. If you can, include a safety cushion in calculating times necessary for work and meetings. As you gain experience in your field, you will become better able to assess time requirements. For now, do your best to give yourself some leeway.

4. Do not be the guy that attends every possible meeting. There are meetings and appointments that you cannot avoid. There are also many meetings that are optional or can be turned down without repercussions. Do you actually need a sit down? Can you deal with the issue via telephone or email? Email and the telephone tend to take less time. Your time is valuable. Do not commit to things if you do not feel the need to. The more commitments you agree to, the greater the probability that you cannot be on time for the meeting or deliverable.

5. Consider total time requirements relating to the event, not just the meeting itself. If you have a meeting in another building, make sure you factor in the travel time when scheduling the meeting. If you have back to back meetings that are a 10 minute apart walk, you need to account for this as well.

6. At the end of the workday, take a few minutes to review your calendar for the following day. Locate the files and relevant information that you require for next day meetings. To the extent possible, print off anything you need for the next day. Email or telephone for any missing information that you require. Do not wait until minutes beforehand to notice that you are missing crucial data. Put these in your desk, so that you can simply grab them in the morning and do not need to track files down or print information off then.

7. Know the exact location for the meeting as well as the route if you are unsure of the location. People change offices over time, meetings need to be moved due to conflicts. Make sure you know exactly where you are supposed to be. If you are unfamiliar with the site, get directions from the organizer or host. People would rather spend a minute explaining where to go, than to be sitting there waiting for you to arrive. If necessary, use an online tool such as Google Maps to assist in finding the building. When going to the meeting, have the contact number for the host. That way, if you do get lost, you can quickly call the person for directions.

8. Bear in mind that timing is impacted by ancillary factors. When it is time to go, be ready to go. That last phone call you accept will not be as quick as you think it will be. The one page you need to print, that usually takes 30 seconds, will be sitting in a queue of large presentations. When it is time to go, go. Unless that call relates to the appointment, let it go to voice mail.

9. When traveling to a meeting, have a back-up plan in place should something go wrong. The importance of this is directly correlated to the importance of the appointment. Yes, all meetings are important, but some you cannot be late for except in the case of death. Final exams, a job interview, meeting with your boss’s superiors, an important client are a few quick examples.

10. When calculating times, factor in arriving early. For all meetings, plan on being there a minimum of 5 minutes prior to the starting time. This lets you get settled and prepared for the session. If others are there, a chance for a quick hello. This 5 minutes should increase based on factors such as travel complexity and the importance of the meeting, as discussed above. I would also include any initial meetings, as you never get a second chance to make a first impression. For something like a job interview or similar, I would try to be there between 15 and 30 minutes early as a cushion for potential problems.

While you do not need to arrive an hour early, be safe rather than sorry. Use the extra time to review, use the washroom or even bring something to read. I would skip the MP3 player or paperback novel. If you do not want to review, read some business related magazine or other work that you have.

Despite all precautions, there will be times things happen and you will be late. If you are perceived by others as a normally punctual person, you will usually be given the benefit of the doubt. Because, as we all know, things happen. Usually bad things. However, if you are seen as the worker who is always late to the party, you will never get the benefit. No matter the source of the delay, people will shake their heads, smile and say. “It’s always something with that guy.”

Communicate as soon as it becomes apparent that you will be tardy. The sooner the better. Let the other party know what time you will arrive and offer them the chance the reschedule the appointment. Apologize sincerely for the problem, but you do not need to go into details as to why you are behind schedule.

Hopefully these tips will be useful. In business, employes are required to juggle multiple tasks, coping with changing circumstances, to complete precise work while meeting tight deadlines. Trust in one’s co-workers is extremely important for a company to run smoothly. If you are seen as a person who cannot be trusted for something as straightforward as arriving on time, how can you be trusted to deal with complex and challenging assignments? Do not be that person.

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