CHARACTER FIRST - PUNCTUALITY
Why have articles on character?
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.
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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
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.
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
"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.
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
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.
PUNCTUALITY ON THE JOB
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
Seek to maximize your time by pressing to get ahead of schedule.
PUNCTUALITY WITH BALANCE
"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.
n 1: the quality or state of being strictly observant of an
appointed or regular time 2:
strict observance in keeping engagements; promptness
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
Punctuality is not simply a time skill: it is a relationship quality and a
demonstration of a personal character.
PUNCTUALITY AT HOME
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