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Success Habits

Cultivate Punctuality to Help You Stand Out Among Coworkers

The longer people wait for you to arrive, the harder it is for you to make a good impression when you do.
Image credit: Dan Dalton | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

We live in a busy world. We are inundated with information, appointments and tasks, which makes it easy to be tardy to events in your life. Some of you are pretty good at this. I have struggled at times to be punctual.

So, how is it that other people manage to be on time consistently? Because they make it a priority.

Some people are chronically late to business meetings, know that they’re doing it, but still can’t seem to stop. Some don’t realize that tardiness can come off as rude and unprofessional. They say things like they’re overwhelmed, they have too much on their plate or that traffic was horrible. None of these are good excuses for being regularly.

Do a quick self-check. Are you this person? If you are, decide now to change. Your professional reputation is at stake. Here's why that's so, and how you can change.

Punctuality matters.

If you are consistently late for business meetings, stop. Being late shows coworkers, supervisors and potential business clients that you are undependable, not well organized or perhaps don’t even care.

Tardiness does not help your professional reputation, yet it’s an easy issue to fix when you put your mind to it. Also, it can be so common that if you are consistently punctual in your business affairs, you will stand out from your chronically late coworkers.

Related: 7 Steps for Getting the Chronically Late Employee to Be Punctual

Punctuality is professional.

Pretend for a moment that you are attending a pre-op appointment for brain surgery. After 45 minutes of waiting, your surgeon bursts into the room sweaty and frazzled. How would that make you feel? Still want him or her to operate on your brain? I didn’t think so.

The same is true when you come into a business meeting frazzled and obviously stressed. Whether true or not, this gives the impression that you are disorderly or irresponsible. No professional wants to be viewed this way.

Related: The Single Most Important Habit of Successful Entrepreneurs

Tardiness is ill-mannered.

Many people believe being on time reflects good manners because it shows respect and consideration for the other person’s time. After all, there are many productive things they could be doing instead of waiting for you to arrive.

George Washington said to tardy meal guests, “We are punctual here. My cook never asks whether the company has arrived, but whether the hour has come.” Such people would arrive to find Washington halfway through or having just finished his meal, so they would miss out on an opportunity to dine with our first president. Remember, punctuality is a choice.

Related: 6 Ways to Make a Great First Impression

Take this week to practice being punctual. Just take action with the right intentions, and you'll be more likely to have success. 

1. Remind yourself and stick to time limits.

Place reminders around your home and office to remind you of your punctuality goal. Set a timer for different tasks and stick to any time limit you create. For instance, if you want to take a quick, five-minute shower in the morning before work, set the timer for that duration and stop showering when the timer rings.  

2. Spread out appointments.

Do not set your appointments so close together that you only have travel time between them. If one small thing goes awry, such as bad traffic or a prior meeting running late, you will have no breathing room, and won’t be not be on time. Keep a buffer between appointments to account for unforeseen events, as well as to decrease your overall stress.

3. Use technology.

Professionals are constantly on their computers or other gadgets, so use this to your advantage. Set timers on calendars or phones as reminders to leave. Do not set the alarm for the time the meeting begins; set it for 15 to 30 minutes early. Traffic apps can help if you must travel for a meeting. Be sure to give yourself adequate time to allow for traffic.

4. Be empathetic.

In addition to active methods of helping yourself be on time, be empathetic to others. Understand that your actions have consequences for them, too. It takes time away from other people and disrupts their schedules to sit and wait on you. This alone should give you motivation to change.

5. Cut items from your to-do list.

Not everything you’d like to get done can or should get done today. Stop trying to do so much. Some items will just have to wait until later. Be honest when deciding what needs to be accomplished, and what is just taking up time that could be better spent getting to the next, important appointment.

So, begin with just one week of trying these steps and truly concentrating on being punctual. Hopefully, this will turn into a habit and become your normal way for accomplishing tasks and meeting people. Colleagues and friends will appreciate the change, and you will also come across as more professional and caring. Beat the tardiness epidemic, and gain one leg up on the competition.