Poor timekeeping and time poverty
Richard Branson wrote on LinkedIn telling us that if we wanted to be more productive, we should be more punctual. Yet poor time keeping seems to be a current and growing trend, as everyone claims to be overloaded and time poor. Time poverty has become a corporate and cultural epidemic. Busy or stressed has become today’s standard response to a routine enquiry asking someone how they are. We ae constantly complaining about time poverty.
Time scarcity seems to have become a badge of success and an indicator of professional status.
I confess to having been guilty of some erratic time keeping myself. I was very much “a one more thing before I go” type of girl and a great subscriber to the phrase “fashionably late.” But, fortunately in my early career, I worked for a manager who monetized the communally wasted time whenever any of his team was late for a meeting. It was actually quite shocking. If we had all been held financially accountable, our pay cheques would have been significantly lighter.
When I transitioned into sales I had to replace “better late than never ” with “never late is better.” Arriving late isn’t actually a recognised commercially winning strategy.
I have become acutely aware in recent times how erratic general timekeeping seems to have become and how easily the phrase “running late”, has slid into our daily business and social vernacular, including my own. Very often people apologise, (sometimes they don’t), explaining that either they, someone, or something else was “running late“, as though they were a bus service, entirely passive and had nothing to do with it at all. Clearly there are always unforeseen circumstances but these tend to be less common than imagined.
I ran a training session a few weeks ago when 50% of attendees were late. I was told this was quite usual. A contact mentioned that two of that same organisation’s account managers were late for a sales meeting with a senior director in his company. They went on to lose the account. A lack of respect for time, their own and others, has become embedded into their corporate culture.
Why are we all becoming more tolerant of poor time keeping? Whatever happened to William Shakespeare’s “Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late?”
Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out, tells us that the first step is to make promptness a conscious priority, but also we need to gain an understanding into why we’re always late. Poor timekeeping can be very costly, both directly but also via damage to our reputations suggesting we are unreliable, untrustworthy and/or disorganised. The reasons she maintains tend to fall into two categories: technical or psychological.
1. Technical Difficulties
If we are always late but at different time then, the likelihood is that it is the result of bad planning and under estimating how long things will take. It could explain our time poverty.
Morgenstern advises establishing patterns by keeping a time log of all tasks and finding out exact how much time each task takes. Then factor in a margin for some unforeseen contingency.
– Inability to say no
Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears believes there are deeper underlying implications of poor timekeeping, which are linked to procrastination. Very often many of the difficulties come from lack of confidence and an inability to say no, or even to tell another person we have another appointment in our diaries.
– Do you choose to be late?
If we are always late by the same amount of time, there could be a number of reasons – but no doubt, it’s about us! We might be:
- Rebellious – not doing what’s expected
- A crisis maker – need an adrenalin rush to get going
- Attention seeker – which comes with being last through the door and going through the apology ritual.
- Power playing – I’m more important than you are, sending a message of disrespect
- Avoider – you don’t want to meet the person, or attend the meeting, so leave it until the very last-minute.
So next time instead of saying something “ran late”, perhaps we should all just be honest and admit to being bad planners, power players, attention seekers or avoiders.
More importantly if we manage our own time, we will automatically respect the time of others. We should also stop thinking poor time management is worth emulating and follow Richard Branson’s lead.
“It means being an effective delegator, organiser and communicator.”
If you need support with your time management and planning which could impact your career – check out these coaching programmes.