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A schedule is to time what a budget is to money. Both schedules and budgets are guides for resource management. They indicate how much time or money is available for a given task or purchase. Budgets remind us that overspending in one area means we will have to sacrifice in other areas. The same is true of schedules.

Budgets also teach us that under spending in an area frees extra funds for other pursuits. The same is true of punctual time management. Punctuality is not simply staying within time limits; a punctual person will look for ways to get ahead of schedule, just as a frugal spender looks for ways to stay under budget.

Recognizing the importance of their customers' time, Pony Express riders like the legendary "Buffalo Bill" Cody risked their lives to get the mail through on time - and often ahead of schedule.

"The mail must get through." That was the operating motto of the Pony Express. Because Pony Express postage was an expensive $1 per half-ounce, mail pouches generally contained government and business mail of great urgency.
The men of the Pony Express were constantly pressing, not merely to keep, but to beat the schedule. The Express schedule originally allowed 10 days from start to finish in the summer months, and 12 days in the winter. (Extra time was allotted for crossing the Rocky Mountains during the winter.) But the men of the Pony Express whittled the time down to 8 days in summer and 10 in winter.

One reason they were able to accomplish this time reduction was that the Pony Express had obtained the best horses and ponies money could buy. It took 500 horses to keep the Express operating, and the buyers combed the country for the finest. One Express blacksmith told how he had to strap a horse's legs still to shoe it, the animal was so spirited.

Another factor contributing to better ride times was a change in the riding distances. At first, the riders changed horses every 25 miles, but the horses could not maintain full speed for that distance. Stations were thus added every 10 to 12 miles.

However, the most important factor was the sheer determination of the riders. They rode hard. They found and navigated the shortest routes. They would not be distracted: even when shot at by ambushers, they hugged close to the horse and continued the sprint, slowing to shoot back only if outrunning was not feasible.

The fastest deliveries were made in early 1861, as North/South tensions were building toward the Civil War. Both the North and the South were vying for California's support as sides were forming. When the controversial Abraham Lincoln won the Presidential election in November 1860, the news was sped west in a record-breaking 8 days. When Lincoln delivered his First Inaugural Address the following March, the Express riders made their fastest time ever: 7 days and 16 hours!

Good equipment and improved processes contributed to overall time improvement of the Pony Express, but the sheer determination of the riders to beat the schedule was the most important factor.

Punctuality is an attitude. It is a mindset of efficiency - maximizing time. There are countless distractions and interruptions that will hinder you from staying on schedule. Unless you take the offense and aggressively strive to keep ahead of schedule, you will likely fall behind.

Keep time - and maximize it.


In modern finance, when budgets are not kept, loans are generally available to make up the difference (though dept repayment constrains future budgeting). But no bank or financial institution can loan you time to make up for scheduling shortfalls. Time must be guarded even more closely than money, for once time is spent, it is gone forever.

To guard your time wisely, schedule it. Then stick to your schedule, and look for ways to get ahead of schedule. You may never actually get very far ahead, but unless you are aggressively striving to do so, you will inevitably fall behind. Too many forces exist that push you behind: the only way to counteract them is to constantly strive to get ahead. There is, unfortunately, no neutral position.

Seek to maximize your time by pressing to get ahead of schedule.


"Haste makes waste" is a proverb that holds earnest in check. It is a good thing to be earnest about getting ahead, but there is an important distinction to be kept between working in earnest and working in haste.

Pressing ahead with earnest means looking for more efficient ways to accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished. In contrast, haste is bypassing responsibilities behind-the-scenes in order to get the "out front" done more speedily: haste cuts corners.

The punctual earnest to get ahead of schedule must be exercised with the balancing quality of thoroughness, "knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected." It is a commitment to thoroughness that protects punctuality from degrading into rash hastiness.

Eating on the run, for example, is a practical means of keeping pace. However, as a regular practice, it neglects important factors of healthy digestion and family time. Implement punctual earnestness with thoroughness.


Showing esteem for others by doing the right thing at the right time.

Punctual comes from the Latin word punctum ("a point"). Originally, the English word expressed "scrupulous exactness" in measurements of all sorts, not just timing. Today, however, we speak of a person's precision in timing when we use the word punctual.

Punctuality is being at an appointed location at the appointed time. A person may arrive five minutes of five hours early; but if he is there at the appointed, the idea behind punctuality (pinpoint precision) is fulfilled. Arrive one minute late, however, and punctuality is missed.

punctuality n 1: the quality or state of being strictly observant of an appointed or regular time 2: strict observance in keeping engagements; promptness

Punctuality is being on time, but it is more than that. Punctuality is a discipline of resource management; it is a method for multiplying your time; and it is an expression of respect for those with whom you work.


Time is our most valuable resource. We spend exorbitant hours of it thinking about protecting dollars and cents, but how much time (and money) do you invest in guarding your hours and minutes? Financial losses might be recovered, but you can never regain lost time.

Punctuality is about managing this irreplaceable resource wisely: finishing projects on time so that time reserved for other projects is not cut short.


We are born unequal in terms of financial opportunity. Some are advantaged from the beginning; some are less so. But time is the great equalizer of humanity. All men are created equal in the sense that they have the same 24 hours in a day to invest. How you invest your equal share of time will determine the fate of every other financial, skill, and social advantage you may possess.

You cannot multiply your time in a literal sense, but punctuality is recognizing that you can "make" time by keeping a schedule and beating the schedule.


To honor someone's time is to show your respect for that person. Being on time to a meeting your supervisor called shows honor for him. Finishing an appointment on time shows respect for your guest. Limiting the length of draw on another's time and attention communicates your recognition that her time is valuable.

Punctuality is not simply a time skill: it is a relationship quality and a demonstration of a personal character.


The more one does an activity, the faster and better that person becomes at it.

1. What were three factors that contributed to the Pony Express riders' ability to make and beat their delivery schedules?

2. How did a realization of importance increase the Express riders' motivation (and ability) to beat the schedule?

3. Is always trying to get ahead of schedule an exhausting effort or an energizing motivation? Explain your thinking on this point.

If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.
- Benjamin Franklin

Talk about the importance of maximizing time. Choose an activity around the home for each child. At the beginning of the week, time how long it takes each child to perform his or her task. Explain that you will time them again at the end of the week to see if they have been able to shorten their task time.

At the end of the week, praise your children for the time they "made" by finishing early. Be sensitive to those who may need help figuring ways to improve how they do their job.

Character definitions and information used by permission. Copyright Character Training Institute. www.characterfirst.com


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