George Washington was the 1st President of the United States of America. Among many of his traits that make him one of the most venerated leaders ever, was his regard to being on time. Punctuality is one of the most important qualities of a great leader, gentleman or lady.
Once George Washington wanted to buy a horse and asked a man to bring about a few horses by his stable by five. This man got 15 minutes late (naturally like any of us) and asked the stable caretaker for Washington. Caretaker replied, “Mr. Washington was here for you at five and since you weren’t here he left for another business matter”.
George was never ever late for his Congress Meetings either. Not only that, he also had a fixed time for his meals. When he invites his Congress Members for a meal, they make sure that they arrive on time, since George doesn’t wait for his guests, but will start eating his meal on the specified time. His cooks “wait for no one”. Once his Secretary got late for a meeting and blamed it on the tardiness of her watch. George replied, “either you get a new watch or I’ll get a new Secretary”.
For Washington, being on time was a way of showing respect to others, and he expected to be treated with the same level of respect in return. We may no longer live in an age of knickers and powdered wigs, but being punctual is just as important as it ever was. It has been called “a homely, but solid virtue,” and it certainly doesn’t cause one’s breast to swell in the way that pondering courage or resolution does. But related as punctuality is to discipline and self-mastery, to integrity and respect, it is – if not particularly sexy – still an essential component of the character of an upstanding man.
The habit of being prompt once formed extends to everything — meeting friends, paying debts, going to church, reaching and leaving place of business, keeping promises, retiring at night and rising in the morning, going to the lecture and town-meeting, and, indeed, to every relation and act, however trivial it may seem to observers.
–William Makepeace Thayer, Tact and Grit, 1882
Why is it important to be punctual?
- Being punctual strengthens and reveals your integrity
Telling someone that you’ll be there at 8:00 means you have made a promise. If you arrive at 8:10 then you have broken that promise.
- Being punctual shows, you are dependable
A man can always be found at his post, carrying out the duties needful for that time. People know they can rely on such a man – if he says he will be there, he’ll be there. But if a man is not punctual, others cannot depend on him — they do not know where he will be when they need him.
- Being punctual builds your self-confidence
Showing up on time not only tells other people you are dependable, it teaches you that you can depend on yourself. The more you keep the promises you make, the more your self-confidence will grow.
- Being punctual builds and reveals your discipline
The punctual man shows that he can organize his time, that he pays attention to details, and that he can put aside this to do that – he can set aside a pleasure to take care of business.
- Being punctual shows your respect for others
Being late is a selfish act, for it puts your needs above another’s. You want an extra minute to do what you’d like, but in gaining that minute for yourself, you take a minute from another, which is why….
- Being late hurts your professional career
Whether you’re an employee or in business for yourself, being late can hinder your professional success. Many companies have strict policies about punctuality — get a few write-ups and you’re gone. Of course, if you arrive late to the job interview, you probably won’t land the position in the first place. And if you’re trying to win over a new client, arriving ten minutes late isn’t going to get things off on the right foot, in the same way that promising to get something to him by a certain date and then failing to do so, may have him looking elsewhere for your services.
- Being late takes a toll on your life
Always running behind simply hurts you in all areas of your life. It results in lost opportunities: missing a plane, missing a meeting, missing an important part of a lecture, missing a wedding. It creates stress and can lead to car accidents and traffic tickets. It results in embarrassment and forces you to come up with excuses for why you’re late, putting a strain on your honesty. Basically, it makes your life more complicated.
It has been said that time is money. That proverb understates the case. Time is a great deal more than money. If you have time you can obtain money—usually. But though you have the wealth of a cloak-room attendant at the Carlton Hotel, you cannot buy yourself a minute more time than I have, or the cat by the fire has.
–Arnold Bennett, How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, 1910
As Sri Lankan’s, we are known to be “very much on time”. We can blame it on many factors. Obviously, the transportation system of the country is a mess and the huge traffic forms are another form of a disaster, but it is important that we become conscious of time and try to at least be there 10 minutes early so that all of the said delay factors are accounted for. Lack of discipline regarding punctuality is a major reason why we are stagnated in our development process. How annoyed do we get when a train is late? But who are we to judge if individually we are no different when it comes to being on time? It is said that the average delay time of a train in Japan is 7 seconds per year. In our country, of course it easily could be 1 hour per journey. There is a reason why those countries are so advanced and we are not. We have heard of foreign ministers who resigned just because a train got late. That is the amount of respect they have for being on time. Of course, punctuality is not something any of us can adapt overnight. But individually as Rotaractors, we can always try to make that change. We can start coming to meetings on time, and even get back home on time. We can avoid delays on project reports, just as we could do the same when it comes to other submissions. If it is honestly difficult to be on time the least you could do is excuse. But how can you be called a gentleman or a lady if you are known to be late? How can you be called a young leader?
Art of Manliness, L. (2017). The Importance of Punctuality | The Art of Manliness. [online] The Art of Manliness. Available at: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2012/07/16/a-man-is-punctual-the-importance-of-being-on-time/ [Accessed 12 Aug. 2017].
Rtr. Shalutha Jayakody