A few weeks ago a friend of mine was invited for an interview by a certain organisation. He was told the interview would start at 10 A.M. and surprisingly he was there 30 minutes earlier. To his amazement, the interviewers came an hour later and did not even care to inform him about that there would be a delay, no apologies whatsoever!

Most of us Africans have a bad habit of starting late when it comes to weddings, events, funerals, at work, even at church, to mention but a few. Sometimes it is referred to as "African Time" (nguva dzechibhoyi in Shona) - the perpetual, habitual tardiness within the African communities, be it local or abroad. This is a huge African disease that needs to be cured.

Imagine you want to have a business meeting with someone who either does not show up or is late, you obviously categorise that person as someone who lacks seriousness or does not respect you enough to be early. Being tardy does not pay; it can lose you big business. I remember an associate who once worked at a shop fitting company. They had a deal with Irvin's on which they were supposed to fix Irvin's office ceiling. On the first day they arrived on the site an hour late and the white lady dismissed them for not being punctual, imagine, the embarrassment, yet alone the loss of revenue.

Now ask yourself and be honest with following questions:

  • How many times have you been at work 10 minutes early?
  • How many times did you arrive at a wedding event early to witness the newlyweds walking into the hall?
  • How many times did you make it on time after making a business appointment?
  • How many times have you arrived late for an interview and what was the result?

If you marked yourself negatively in one of these questions, it means that you need to exercise discipline in yourself in order to try and improve so as to be punctual.

I am not saint when it come to punctuality, but didn't the bible say "iron sharpenth iron"? Consider the points below and see the bad part of being tardy:

Being late is a form of stealing. When you make someone wait for you, you rob them of their time that they will never get back. Imagine they have made a sacrifice by waking up early and preparing to meet you, they may have sacrificed breakfast, or other business only to see you disregarding that and rocking in when you feel like.

Being late can strain your relationships. When you are late to meet people, it makes them feel unappreciated. It might be business people waiting for you in the boardroom, a person waiting for you by the bus stop or your mate waiting at a restaurant, whatever it may be, it shows a lack of consideration for others and can strain you relations with them.

Being late may become a habit in your life. When you are always running late, this can have a domino effect and create problems in other areas of your life. It results in lost opportunities: missing a meeting, missing an important part of a church ceremony, missing a wedding. It creates stress and can lead to car accidents and traffic tickets for high speeding. It results in embarrassment and forces you to come up with excuses for why you're late, putting a strain on your honesty.

This means we need to take stock of ourselves and ask what type of a person would we like to be?

There are benefits for being punctual. Some of the instances that I have found have proved the following to be true:

Being punctual is an indication that you are a man of your word. It makes you earn respect from other people for they will know that you are always on time. People will also find you to be more reliable than a person who is always late. They will also feel valued and respected because you appear on time rather than wasting their time.

Being punctual reveals your discipline. It reveals that you are organised and you pay attention to detail. It rewards you when people can see your sincerity and commitment. Many people find it worthy to deal with someone who is punctual.

So if you have a habit of being relaxed with regards to time, here are a few tips that I have been following lately, that can help you to make adjustments:

  • Think of the consequence. Consider the price of delay.
  • Consider others. (I bet you do not want to have a reputation of being arrogant).
  • Learn time-management skills. (You don't need expensive training, usually a simple matrix – do positive active tasks first).
  • Give yourself a reward as you complete each stage of a large project. (Linking your reward to allowing yourself more "personal" time – that's a great motivation, for yourself as well as for your team).
  • Make a commitment to someone. Tell a friend or supervisor that you will complete a certain project within a specific time. (Self-inflicted positive pressure makes you become a "driver").

It works as a good reminder to my fellow Africans to exercise a habit of being punctual because it saves us a lot of troubles. It also allows us to earn respect from others. Imagine how thankful other people will be if they find that we have improved on our punctuality behavior, this will truly add value to us and we will be winners in various activities that we do.

So? Will you be making a change to how you view yours and other people's time? Maybe buy a watch? What efforts will you be putting into working on your punctuality from henceforth? Any recommendations you can give to anyone else who has this bad habit of being late?

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