Punctuality is heavily underrated these days. Getting on time to your meeting became a bit obsolete. Ironically, the thing that is supposed to make our lives easier, technology, is the same thing that creates time boundaries between us.
We’re surrounded with this cloud of technology that makes it so easy to reschedule everything or to just announce that we’re going to be late. Send an SMS, an email, ping someone on whatsapp, you name it, there’s always a simple way to let the other person know that you’re 5 minutes late. To such a point that being on time becomes simply irrelevant.
Well, I beg to differ. I said this many times and I still hold this very high on my values scale: punctuality is not only about being fair with other people, but especially with yourself. If you don’t show up on time, how do you expect that anything you want in this life will show up on time?
Let me tell you a story about how to be on time, a story based on real life events, specifically the Open Connect event (something that I’ve been doing for almost 4 years in a row, pretty much every week).
How To Be On Time At Open Connect
Open Connect [Romanian content] is a real life pitching and networking event I started (almost) 4 years ago, in a Starbucks, in Bucharest. In time, the event grew nicely: it is now organized in a few other cities outside Bucharest, it created a community of more than 5500 entrepreneurs and freelancers and it became the foundation of my latest startup: Connect Hub. It starts at 10:00 AM, every Thursday.
A few months ago, I started to notice that we didn’t start quite on time. There were always a few 10-15 minutes of delay. A few participants even complained about it. Facing reality, I had to find a way to bring things back on track.
I started by making it very clear on the event description that anyone who is gonna be even one minute late will have to read out loud something from a piece of paper. It was just a sentence, but a sentence related to the fact that the person was late. Like: “I know I am late, and still I expect my clients to pay me on time. Huh?”. Or: “Successful people are always showing up on time”. Stuff like that. And I actually did it. I wrote down, on a few sheets of paper, those sentences and kept them handy. After 10:00 AM, anyone who came to the event had to read one of these.
In the beginning, nobody actually believed I was actually doing this. And yet, here I was, politely handing out sheets of papers to the late comers, and inviting them on the stage, to read the “inspirational” sentences. Surprisingly, the audience loved this. The messages were a bit hilarious, but the main idea was very clear and it went through.
In just a few editions (4-6 weeks) everybody arrived on time. And I mean everybody. Some people even told me that if they knew they will be even 5 minutes late, they will postpone their presence at the Open Connect entirely.
One may think that such a determined action will drastically lower the number of participants. Well, you’ll be surprised. The average number of participants stayed the same: 30-40 for each edition. But there were a few guys (the chronic laters, how I called them) that didn’t show up anymore. For good. Among them, even people that were part of the crew (for instance, the person who was giving feedback to the pitchers). So I had to find somebody else to give feedback to the pitchers. But the event started on time. And that was much more important, in the grand scheme of things.
So, based on this true story, I drafted a small list of tips that will help you straighten up your act (if you’re a chronic later) or just come on time, if you’re late only every once in a while.
1. Face The Consequence Immediately
It is very closely related to the story above and it goes like this: set up a consequence that must happen immediately after you got late. It doesn’t have to be a sentence you read in front of some people. But it has to be something you are able to do, very fast, taking you just a few seconds (you don’t want to add up to the time you’re being late) and, very important: something awkward enough to make you hurry, but not embarrassing to the point you’re not going to do it at all.
For instance, send a text message to yourself, saying: “I was late again, at …. – no wonder opportunities are late on me too.” Fill in the blanks with whatever thing you are late to: a business meeting, a meeting with your friends, a social event, etc. You will see this message pretty much every time you will check your text messages on the phone. It will be unavoidable. It will just stay there, a reminder that you were late.
This simple thing will be more effective than you think right now. If it would be to implement only one thing from this list, just do this one, it’s the most powerful of all.
2. Move The Meeting Time 5 Minutes In Advance
If you have to be somewhere at 10:00 AM, set yourself to be there at 9:55 AM. Like, literally. Keep a double log of your meetings schedule. One being the real one, and the second being your own, customized version. If you have a lot of meetings, you will soon end up with a very, very busy schedule. For starters, that will force you really fast to choose which one you’re going to follow: the real one, or the customized one. You won’t be able to do both, obviously.
And after starting to function on the customized version, something interesting will happen. If you’re going to be “late” 5 minutes, you will still be on time.
Pretty neat, huh?
3. Put Your Schedule On The Door
I used to do this when I was younger, I’m not doing it anymore, but I remember it as a vey effective technique. If you make your schedule the last thing you’ll see before getting out of your house, it will stay longer in your mind. It goes like this for anything important, not only your schedule. For instance, I started to do this when I had something very important to take with me the next day: I simply put that thing in front of the door just before going to sleep.
It works wonders, believe me.
4. Acknowledge The Presence Of The “Two Minds”
This a bit more complex and it’s closely related to the habit of waking up early. When you try to wake up early for the first time after a long period of snoozing around, you’ll realize there are two minds: the mind that you use while you’re still on bed, barely awake and the one that you use when you’ve already put your feet on the floor.
Even if you heard the alarm, if you’re still on the bed, the “bed” mind will glue you back. It will find all sort of excuses just to keep you there. But once you took the decision to put your feet on the floor, that mind will simply vanish. I sometimes feel it like a fog disappearing. I’m awake. It’s the awake mind that is taking the lead now. Ok, let’s move on.
But between those minds the gap is huge. The effort that you have to put to jump from one mind to another (like putting your feet on the floor, instead of lying in bed) is huge.
So, just acknowledge the fact that you will always have two minds fighting in your head: the one that will try to find excuses, and the one that will try to put your feet on the floor. Once you’re up and running, once you’re in the process of doing something, the “excuses” mind will vanish.
But it’s really hard to get there. Every time you feel like backing up, like running away, like just quitting, think a little bit about those two minds: who’s the mind who talks: the one in the bed, or the one with the feet on the floor?
5. Praise Others For Their Punctuality
Of all the 5 tips, this is the easiest. It may not show results as fast as the ones above, but it will eventually show them. Just being grateful for other people showing up on time will create some deep links in your brain that will eventually put you on the right track.
We all need to be validated by others. We all crave recognition. So, by giving that recognition first, you set up the scene for your own future recognition.
Like I said, it doesn’t work instantly, it takes a while but it works.
If anything from this article resonated with you, then I’m sure you’ll gonna love this community. I created it at the beginning of 2016, in order to build more effective ways to communicate with my readers, to support them and to help them help themselves (I know it sounds strange, but that’s how it goes).
So, if you really want to know more about accountability, about real people, following real goals, supporting each other and finding ways to overcome obstacles, give it a try.