Time To Berate The State Of Being Chronically Late

Time To Berate The State Of Being Chronically Late

We laid-back islanders, by and large, are a tardy lot. Yes, we lotus-eaters put more energy into being late than we ever put into our social, working and family lives.

Obviously, we Sri Lankans have a notorious reputation for chronic unpunctuality. Indeed many of us are responsible for throwing certain formal functions that are arranged with clock-work precision completely out of kilter because of our lateness. It is considered rude and boorish behaviour to keep your hosts or organisers and other guests cooling their heels for unacceptable periods of time.

But when one considers being on time for any function or meeting in this neck of the woods people take advantage of Sri Lankan Standard Time and extend it to Sri Lankan stretchable time. Okay it is sometimes acceptable to be late for an informal party where one does not have to stand on ceremony.

Of course many of us are sometimes late for such casual occasions. That is inevitable and pardonable. But I am not talking about the odd occasion of lateness. I am talking about people who are routinely late. In fact, I am focusing on those inconsiderate individuals who are never on time. You know who I am talking about!

We’ve all been there. Your car has broken down. The train inexplicably failed to turn up on time. Your dog ate your alarm clock. And so on, and so forth.

While running late might not be ideal, it does happen, and sometimes it’s really, truly, legitimately not your fault. Sometimes that is. More often than not, however, tardiness isn’t due to a random fault in the public transport system. It’s a fault in the way we perceive the value of time – namely, other people’s.

Essentially, running late is very poor manners.

Are you the type who is early to a party or a function or do you arrive just on time. Possibly you may be the fashionably late type. Being late for anything – a business meeting, a luncheon, an appointment with a client – suggests a gross lack of reliability. So, being fashionably late is neither fashionable nor profitable. It is downright insensitive, discourteous and often, insulting.

Showing up late wastes other people’s time and increases their stress levels, especially at events where catering is involved. Those whose lives really are so full that they cannot be punctual should be and often are, courteous enough to let people know they will be late.

One thing that gets my gall is the impudence of certain professionals who keep you waiting while running behind schedule after making an appointment. Nothing can be more frustrating than medical specialists who subject their patients to interminably exasperating delays.

Waiting to see a medical specialist is a far different cry from waiting for a flight at an airport. You are often anxious about the appointment, uncomfortable, in pain, or worried. Medicine is different today and so are many of its practitioners. And many of them don’t have the basic courtesy to apologise for being late. While there is always the possibility of a medical emergency having caused an unusual delay, most doctors seem pretty consistent with their tardiness.

But here is the bottom line: Expecting me to wait a long time in a doctor’s office tells me two things. First, I don’t feel respected. And secondly, I wonder how committed the practice is to my comfort and to reducing my anxiety when they seem to be putting more emphasis on their needs rather than on mine.

In the world of business, phrases such as ‘time is money’ are strewn around all day long. I don’t care if those phrases, hackneyed as they are, become overused. But I do care when people fail to realise that time is the most valuable resource in any enterprise. It cannot be returned once it has expired. It’s simply gone. The end product for lateness is lost revenue, lost business and demoralised employees. If you are the head honcho, don’t ever be late. Set the example by being punctual.

The first step that you need to take, so as to improve your punctuality, is to understand the value of time. The majority of the people today take time for granted and do not realise that it is a very precious commodity. Basically it is a question of time management. The day you realise its importance, you will stop wasting it. So, before taking any other step, remind yourself about the value of time.

One of the common attributes of all successful people is that they view their time as a precious resource. When you are late for appointments with people who value their time, you will have wasted one of their most valuable assets and there is a good chance they will view you as rude, irresponsible and disrespectful. Is this how you want to brand yourself?

Not only should you make every effort to be on time for business-related appointments, but you should also do your utmost to be on time for personal commitments. Valuing your friends’ time and earning their respect is an important part of your individual reputation.

Punctuality is a synonym for professionalism and respect. It is integrity in action. Such regularity is an important component of our personality and the lengthening shadow of a person’s character is at the heart of every successful organisation or enterprise.

If a company head has no regard for punctuality, it’s a safe bet the organisation’s employees mirror the boss’s bad habit. Time is money. Tardiness drains a company’s funds. How many thousands of bucks are spent annually waiting for the meeting to start? How many prospective clients have taken their business elsewhere after being angered by having to wait for you or one of your employees to show up at an important business meeting?

But there are always extenuating circumstances that do arise and it won’t always be possible to be on time. Still, if you are going to be late for an appointment, call as soon as you know you are going to be late. This allows others to plan their schedules accordingly. Mobile phones make this an easy thing to do.

To put it in a nutshell: Punctuality is important because it is polite to be on time. Being late leaves the impression that a person is irresponsible or unprofessional. This can have a detrimental impact on both your current work and future employment prospects. On a personal level chronic lateness can strain relationships and cause other people to have to readjust their schedules accordingly.

As a general rule, it is far better to show up 10 minutes early than it is to be even five minutes late. Punctual people are seen as trustworthy. Persistently late people are not.

And I don’t care if I sound old-fashioned, because actually it has nothing to do with ‘fashion’ or ‘generation’. It has got everything to do with basic good manners and respect for other people. (Gaston de Rosayro/gdgasross@gmail.com)

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