A Man Is Punctual: The Importance of Being on Time
by Brett & Kate McKay
Art of Manliness
The life of
George Washington was characterized by a scrupulous regard for punctuality.
When he asked
a man to bring by some horses he was interested in buying at five
in the morning, and the man arrived fifteen minutes late, he was
told by the stable groom that the general had been waiting there
at five, but had now moved on to other business, and that he wouldnt
be able to examine the horses again until the following week.
When he told
Congress that hed meet with them at noon, he could almost
always be found striding into the chamber just as the clock was
promptness extended to his mealtimes as well. He ate dinner each
day at exactly 4 oclock, and when he invited members of Congress
to dine with him, and they arrived late, they were often surprised
to find the president halfway done with his meal or even pushing
back from the table. To his startled, tardy guest he would say,
We are punctual here. My cook never asks whether the company
has arrived, but whether the hour has come.
And when Washingtons
secretary arrived late to a meeting, and blamed his watch for his
tardiness, Washington quietly replied, Then you must get another
watch, or I another secretary.
passion for punctuality was born from his youthful study of The
Rules of Civility his repeated copying of maxims
like Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful
to keep your Promise. For Washington, being on time was
a way of showing respect to others, and he expected to be treated
with the same level of respect in return.
We may no longer
live in an age of knickers and powdered wigs, but being punctual
is just as important as it ever was. It has been called a
homely, but solid virtue, and it certainly doesnt cause
ones breast to swell in the way that pondering courage or
resolution does. But related as punctuality is to discipline and
self-mastery, to integrity and respect, it is if not particularly
sexy still an essential component of the character of an
explore why this is so, and then on Wednesday well cover why
some men struggle with being on time despite their best efforts,
along with tips on how to overcome the habit of always running behind.
Why Is Being
habit of being prompt once formed extends to everything meeting
friends, paying debts, going to church, reaching and leaving place
of business, keeping promises, retiring at night and rising in the
morning, going to the lecture and town-meeting, and, indeed, to
every relation and act, however trivial it may seem to observers.
~ William Makepeace
Thayer, Tact and Grit, 1882
of punctuality is not universal and varies from culture to culture.
In some places like Latin America and the Pacific Islands, life
moves at a different pace and meeting times are meant to be fuzzy.
But this does not negate the value of punctuality to a man living
in a culture that does define being on time more strictly, just
as the well-rounded man of the West seeks competence in things like
a tie, working
out with a kettlebell, and holding open doors for women, even
if such things are not practiced the world over.
have always been a quarter of an hour before my time, and it has
made a man of me.
strengthens and reveals your integrity. If you tell someone
that you will meet them at a certain time, you have essentially
made them a promise. And if you say youll be there at 8:00,
and yet arrive at 8:15, you have essentially broken that promise.
Being on time shows others that you are a man of your word.
shows you are dependable. A man can always be found at his post,
carrying out the duties needful for that time. People know they
can rely on such a man if he says he will be there, hell
be there. But if a man is not punctual, others cannot depend on
him they do not know where he will be when they need him.
His associates will begin to feel he cannot organize his own time,
and these doubts will seep into matters beyond the clock, as it
naturally raises the question: If he is careless about
time, what else is he careless about?
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.
builds your self-confidence. Showing up on time not only tells
other people you are dependable, it teaches you that you can depend
on yourself. The more you keep the promises you make, the more your
self-confidence will grow. And the more you gain in self-mastery,
the less you will be at the mercy of your compulsions and habits,
and the more in control of your life you will feel.
assures youre at your best. After riding someones
bumper, speeding like a maniac, scanning for cops, and cursing at
red lights, its hard to then turn your focus to making a presentation
at a meeting or charming a date youre shaky and depleted
from the adrenaline and stress. But when you show up on time, better
yet a little early, you have a few minutes to collect your thoughts,
review your materials, and get your game face on.
should be minutemen. Punctuality is one of the most valuable habits
a soldier can possess.
Columbus Andrews, Hints
to Company Officers on Their Military Duties, 1863
builds and reveals your discipline. The punctual man shows that
he can organize his time, that he pays attention to details, and
that he can put aside this to do that he can set aside a
pleasure to take care of business.
is great dignity in being waited for, said one who was in
this habit, and who had not much of which he need be vain, unless
it was this want of promptness.
~ John Todd,
Students Manual, 1854
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© 2012 The Art of Manliness