George Washington the first president of the United States of America, was a stickler for time. He simply had no time for those who did not know how to keep time. For example, if he invited someone for dinner and the person arrived late, he would find Washington halfway through with his meal or even done with it. To his startled guest, Washington would say, “We are punctual here. My cook never asks whether the company has arrived, but whether the time has come.”
George Washington may be long dead and buried, but the virtue of punctuality is just as important now as it was then. Punctuality is synonymous with being on time and it refers to the characteristic of being able to complete a required task or fulfill an obligation at a previous or designated time.
As Kenyans, and Africans in general, we have a knack for rushing at the last minute and we rarely beat deadlines. A classic example would be, of course, filing returns with the Kenya Revenue Authority. Individuals and companies have from January to June to file their returns. However, very few people do this on time and end up making unnecessarily long queues or jamming the system when they could have done it earlier.
The same case applies to virtually every aspect of our lives and more so at our work places or schools. In the end, we end up with mediocre results because a project that was supposed to be done in one year is rushed so as to be completed in a month. We are so bad at keeping time that lateness has been given the term ‘African time.’ A joke goes that Africans will be locked out of heaven because they will find the gates locked after arriving late. Funny as it may seem, there’s nothing to laugh at.
People who are not good at keeping time find it hard to adapt at a fast paced environment for as the saying goes: ‘Time and tide waits for no man.’ Without doubt, a person who is punctual is always ahead of the pack in every sense of the word. They also do not suffer from the stress often associated with doing things the last minute and is definitely an asset to the organisation he works in.
Being a punctual person shows you are dependable and reveals your integrity. If you promised to meet someone at a certain time, do your best to uphold the time. They say time is money because it is a resource. You definitely don’t like it when someone wastes your hard-earned money; why would you want to waste someone else’s? Tough as it may sound, being late is a form of stealing as you rob others of their time, which they will never get back.
Benjamin Franklin, regarded as one of the founding fathers of the USA, once said to an employee who was always late, but always ready with an excuse: “I have generally found that the man who is good at an excuse is good for nothing else.” Agreed!
Today’s culture at the workplace places a lot of significance in teamwork. As such, members of a team are inter-dependent on each other to complete a given task. If someone in the chain does not keep time, then the entire project is delayed. Do not let your tardiness pull the team behind. Finally, as you reflect on punctuality, here is a French proverb to ponder upon: ‘the while we keep a man waiting, he reflects on our shortcomings.’
I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English writer and social critic
Better three hours too soon than a minute too late. William Shakespeare (1564-1616), English poet, playwright, and actor
Arriving late is a way of saying that your own time is more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you. Karen Joy Fowler (1950), American author of science fiction, fantasy and literary fiction
Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time. Jim Rohn (1930-2009), American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker
Unfaithfulness in the keeping of an appointment is an act of clear dishonesty. You may as well borrow a person’s money as his time. Horace Mann (1796-1859), American politician and educational reformer
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