“Time waits for no man”, my mother would preach to me and my sister when we were growing up. Both of our parents were sticklers for punctuality and back then it annoyed us mercilessly. In those days, we didn’t see what the big deal was if we were a few minutes late occasionally. My mother was a teacher at a private school, which began promptly at 8:00. The school required teachers to sign in upon arrival at school and be in their classrooms to receive the students when they arrived for school each day.
She often told this story. Every morning at precisely 8:00, the principal’s secretary would remove the sign-in book from the staff room and relocate it to the principal’s office. So, if you arrived at 8:01 you you needed to give the principal a good explanation for your tardiness. Now I grew up in Jamaica and unfortunately being on time is often not the highest priority for many. So this school was like a unicorn.
As I grew older, I learned to appreciate the importance of being on time. Now, when I am late there has to be a good reason. I think it is disrespectful to keep others waiting and I also don’t like to be kept waiting. There is nothing more annoying than having plans with someone and you arrive at the location and they haven’t even left home yet (and they don’t live 2 minutes away). I have been teaching my kids the importance of being on time. They think that arriving at the appointed time means you are on time. Instead, I am teaching them that if you arrive at the scheduled time you are actually late. You need to be where you should be before the appointed time. Only then are you in fact on time.
When I first moved to Canada and started working, I had a 10:00 meeting one day. It was to be in a conference room located 10 feet from my desk. So, at 9:58, I got up from my desk, pen and notebook in hand, and moved towards the conference room. Just as I got up, my phone rang. I turned back to answer it and the meeting organizer was calling to ask me if I was still coming. Apparently, everyone else was there and they were all waiting for me. I was embarrassed and that was when it hit me – “Jamaica time” would not cut it here.
When people say an event starts at a particular time, they mean it literally starts at that time, there is no waiting for people to arrive. I like that. I have wasted way too much time waiting around for people who feel that start times are mere suggestions and so they show up late, with no apologies and no legitimate reason for their tardiness. It is disrespectful to everyone else who arrived on time.
Please, treat other people’s time like it is valuable because it is in fact invaluable. Time is the most valuable commodity you have and every moment wasted is one you will never get back. So, make the effort to show up on time and be ready to participate in the agreed manner. Similarly, if someone else does not respect your time, leave. You deserve to be treated with respect. Your time is too valuable to be sitting around waiting for others who don’t value their own time and therefore won’t value yours.