I have some news for you that will change your life, but first it may annoy you. Like it or not, you are in control of whether you are a punctual person or one who is famously tardy. Yes, no matter how stubborn your habits, you absolutely have the capability and the discipline to be on time — all of the time. We all possess the tools to make it happen, but we must use those tools. I’ll tell you how to do just that.
The first salon owner to ever employ me gave me the most valuable lesson on how I was being perceived by my embarrassing lack of punctuality. During this time, I was habitually 10 minutes late for all of my pedicure clients. There they were: sitting in the chair, kicked back and feet soaking, and I’d arrive at the salon and walk right on by them (trust me: that is the true walk of shame).
He was quick to praise me for being his top performer, but stung me when he explained that he did not trust me to advance my position or ever give me the keys to his spa. It was not because he thought I might steal, but because he equated time with money. Clearly, I did not. When he asked me how he could trust me knowing that paying clients would be waiting on the front steps for me to arrive and open the spa doors, it was a wakeup call.
I cried! I knew he was right. I learned that punctuality counts over everything else, and I needed to apply that principal to my life. Before the handshake, before the introduction, before the fashion assessment, you must ask yourself: did I make them wait? That is an acid test of your character — the golden first impression.
Judge Judy, in her book, “Be the Hero of Your Own Story,” says that we can use punctuality as a success strategy, along with offering mutual respect for the other person’s time. She offers a scenario of meeting with producers of her show in regard to her contract. She always arrives at the restaurant 30 minutes prior to the scheduled time. She sets the scene: eating a piece of bread, napkin on her lap while sipping a beverage. When the others arrive — either 15 minutes early or right on time, it looks as if she’s been waiting there awhile. This means they apologize for making her wait, which is also to say that she immediately has the upper hand. This is a mighty weapon for success; being on time is the ultimate tool.
Why Your Lateness Speaks Volumes About Your Life
I spoke with Catherine Auman LMFT, author of “Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personally and Spiritually Grow” and Director of The Transpersonal Counseling Center about implementing practical tips for guaranteeing that one will never be late again. She believes the first step is that one must recognize what being late actually communicates. With genuinely compassion-filled breath she says, “Many late-comers are unaware of how much [their] lateness non-verbally communicates about oneself.”
During our interview, she lays out the following about what being late conveys to others:
- It communicates that you are not in charge of your time.
- It shows that you are chaotic and lack respect for yourself and others’ time.
- It says that you are not in control of your own life.
- It carries an air of sloppiness.
So no matter how much time it took you to apply your fabulous make-up, how amazing your shoes and how fashion-forward your handbag, when you show up late, you appear sloppy to those who are in better control of their lives. Bam!
When asking Auman if she believes there is such a thing as being too early, she says, “That depends on how you want to live your life.”
Her motto is simple: “Plan to arrive early and expect to wait.” She advises that you create a more meditative approach to your day by arriving at least 30 minutes prior to everything, no matter what, and if needed, wait in the car with a book, take a walk or relax until the appropriate time to walk in. “If it is for an especially important meeting like a job interview, I arrive an hour early and wait in the car,” she says.
While Auman agrees that the “I was stuck in traffic”excuse is valid, especially “in Los Angeles,” she quips, “of course there was traffic,” but it’s ultimately not an excuse at all. You can still plan accordingly to arrive early with or without traffic.
So just how do we “unlate” ourselves? Is it truly possible to go from an always late-comer to an early-comer? According to Auman, “Yes, but it requires real effort.”
How to Never (Ever, Ever!) Be Late Again
The first beauty agency to hire me to work on magazine photoshoots and music video sets for A-list celebrities among the likes of Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige impacted me greatly when they said, “When it comes to set work, arriving on time is half the battle.” I remember laughing to myself and thinking, Hmmm, this won’t be lessons on how to deal with celebrities; no, not that — this is about arriving on time, but I learned they were right, and it groomed me for the challenge.
The bottom line is that there really are no excuses. It doesn’t matter how many years or decades you’ve spent being late. It doesn’t matter if your lateness has become a part of your personality. You can change it – if you want to.
“There needs to be an internal willingness to do it. You must set the intention and the commitment deep down, that no matter what, you will arrive on time,” says Auman. She gives a solid blow to all our excuses by stressing, “If you truly reflect on the events leading up to arriving late, it can be traced back to the very second when a decision was made that it really didn’t matter to be late.” She says to always add extra time for traffic — 15 to 45 minutes or so, as well as snafus and ordinary life disruptions, and most of all, communicate with yourself and others if you’re going to be late.
I’ll conclude this lesson on punctuality with wisdom from my grandmother (aka Nana), who says, “Never be late because you are not that important, the person you are going to see is just as important. It is about keeping your word and your commitments. If you say 8 o’clock, it is 8 o’clock!” Then she adds, with a playful smile and a wink, “And if you are a single lady, never be late with your period.”