Time is of the essence

I am a stickler for punctuality. It’s a bad habit I learned from my father, an engineer by trade and an eager advocate of time-motion study. He is the only person I know who had a stopwatch dividing a minute into one hundred increments. I inherited the stopwatch (along with his slide rule and micrometer, of course). I also inherited his habit of perpetual hurriedness.

He used to set our clocks (analog back then) ahead 10 minutes to ensure we would never be late. So somehow I absorbed that notion of time and still prefer to arrive 10 minutes before a meeting’s scheduled start time. If you’re there at the top of the hour, from my perspective, you’re already late.

Yes, I’ve been late to meetings, my own and others. The difference is that I am consumed with anxiety at doing so. That feeling is only exacerbated when I subsequently see others waltz in after me and they are oblivious to their tardiness. In my book, late is never fashionable.

At least I know I’m not alone. President Obama apparently was a 10-minute-early kind of guy and he attributes his success at least in part to this discipline. I can’t quantify what it’s meant to my career. I only know that’s how I operate.

The biggest challenge to those of us in senior management positions is that our day is usually stacked from morning to night with meetings. If one runs long, the schedule collapses like a proverbial stack of dominoes. Some companies have instituted the 10-minute rule (i.e., meetings should end at the 50 minute mark) to provide people time to scurry to the next confab. That’s a good start.

And for any company out there that is considering making such a change to keep people on schedule, my only advice is there is no time like the present.