I had gone to the bus station to drop my son. He was to board a bus to return to his college in another city. “Make sure we are on time”, ” Let’s not be late” and “Better to be 5 minutes early than 1 minute late” were constant themes in my mind as we drove to the bus station.

On reaching there, well in time as always, my son said something that set me thinking: “Dad” he said ” All my life I have been the only guy on time for all my buses, trains and planes. Everyone comes late”.

Is being on time, in today’s world, a virtue, a disadvantage or just a pain? In my home town of Bengaluru ( earlier Bangalore) it has become very common to hear people blame the city’s notorious traffic jams for their lack of punctuality. At inaugurations, at meetings, at concerts, you see the same phenomenon: Some smirk and make it seem that it is the done thing to be late.

In the old days, in one section of society, the popular belief was that the more late you were, the more busy you were perceived to be and by extension, a “bigger” person. In India, film stars and politicians made this their trademark. Fans learnt to wait and indeed would have been disappointed to find the Chief Guest already there with them at the scheduled start of the function!

The Press and TV channels are full of a recent incident where a Member of Parliament, P V Abdul Wahab was off loaded from a plane allegedly for boarding late. He is supposed to have compounded the fault by calling the pilot a “glorified driver” . The case is receiving a lot of attention although it is but one of many where people mis-use their privileges.

I suspect such attitudes have been carried over in some sections of our corporate life as well. I once heard a super rich business tycoon say that it was all worth it when everyone expectantly looked at him when he walked in late. Knowing the function could not start without him.

Trained from childhood in an iron clad discipline, I attach the highest importance to punctuality. Here are my 7 Virtues of Punctuality:

  1. Respecting the other person’s time means you are respecting the other person
  2. By being late and keeping people waiting, you are communicating the wrong message to those who have taken the trouble to be on time. You are saying that it is perfectly alright to be late.
  3. Punctuality is a personal characteristic. Either you have it or you don’t. People who come late for meeting starting at 8.30 a.m. are as likely to come late for meetings starting at 11.00 a.m. Make punctuality a part of your life.
  4. Punctuality is a great leveler. If you keep some one else waiting, you are likely to be kept waiting yourself. A senior executive came late for a meeting , finished it early and rushed back home because he was waiting for an interior decorator to meet him regarding his project. She did show up -45 minutes after the scheduled time.
  5. Punctuality helps you streamline your life. Be it a meeting, a party or a workout, if you can start on time, you can end on time.
  6. Punctuality speaks of your self-discipline and organizational ability. With so many things to get done in a day, you enhance the chances of success by being punctual.
  7. Punctuality is a matter of culture. Being late is condoned in some societies, in others it speaks very poorly of you. In some, it is construed as being downright insulting to your host, business partner or associate.

As Richard Cecil said:”If I have made an appointment with you, I owe you punctuality. I have no right to throw away your time, if I do my own.”

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This is the 130 th of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success