I learned pretty early in life that it was imperative to make the most of my own time and to appreciate the value of other peoples’ time. I can still hear my parents saying things like “Time is money” and, maybe when I went on and on about something, even “Don’t waste my time.” But it took years to establish the necessary habits that would reinforce to me the value of these statements. I had to acquire specific skills -- how to plan my day efficiently, be well organized, recognize the importance of remaining focused and, even more importantly, being considerate towards others and respectful of their time.
I think the last two attributes, consideration and respect (and this may include even respecting the importance of your own time), may be what we’re missing the most. If we are honest, most of us would agree that too frequently we see actions that are dismissive of another’s time. For example, recently, I had a teaching moment with my own stepdaughter. She innocently, but inattentively, held up an ice cream line—with a growing number of people in it behind us—by indulging in numerous taste samples rather than simply asking for one or two selections at most.
Since children by nature will consider their desires first, as parents, we are afforded various opportunities to teach our children the importance of being mindful to the needs of others. It is our responsibility to help create a sense of balance by emphasizing to the child that “it’s not (always) all about you.” And, as or more important than our words, we can show through our own behavior how we value the time and the needs of others.
Of course, as adults, sometimes we act in ways that exhibit
thoughtlessness towards others’ time. Below are some actions that I have experienced
and also have seen frequently discussed among my friends.
- The person who is constantly late when meeting up with friends even with advance notification of the time and place.
- The employee who holds up or interrupts staff meetings by rushing in late, out of breath but holding that Starbucks coffee that took time to stop and purchase. What does that say?
- The family member who is always late for holiday dinners, but eventually breezes in with a big smile (and no apology) and immediately begins a diatribe on how busy their day has been.
- The cable, phone or home maintenance person who calls the day before to confirm an 8 a.m. appointment for the next day, but by 10:30 a.m. is still a “no show.” But you have no way of reaching the person for an expected time of arrival (or even confirmation whether there will be an arrival), so you wait.
- The front desk clerk at a hotel or receptionist at a physician or other professional’s office who lingers on the phone, without even signaling to you “just one minute,” as you stand there waiting, increasingly anxious at the realization that you’re going to be late for your next appointment.
- The hairstylist or doctor who overbooks appointments, leaving you still seated in the waiting area at 11 a.m. for what was supposed to be a 10:15 a.m. appointment.
- And one of my all-time favorites, those grocery shoppers who venture out with no list only to realize after the clerk has rung up all of their items that they’ve spent too much, so items must now be subtracted one by one as the line gets progressively longer behind them. (And, a variation on this—the person ahead in line who, for whatever reason, chooses some lengthy, painstaking method of payment, often accompanied by a prolonged discussion with the checkout clerk over expired or inapplicable coupons, etc.)
These are only a sampling of some of the inconsiderate actions that occur every day in our society highlighting the lack of value placed by some towards others’ time.
Being on time is a prime reflection of your ability to plan, manage and organize your day. It also shows to what extent you regard the needs of others. On average, most people would like to feel that you consider their time as valuable. Relationships and businesses will suffer if the right amount of quality time and attention is not allocated to your clients and loved ones. No relationship, whether business, personal, or even romantic, can survive for long if there is a lack of valuing of time. When one is consistently on time or otherwise attentive to others’ time, this shows a person of their word and someone who can be trusted. This is a major step in building character and integrity and strengthening relationship with others.
We need to give our children the necessary guidance as it relates to this topic. For example, we can help them establish routines that manage their time and keep them on track as they head back to school. By having a system that includes a fixed routine, a child will develop a dependable character with teachers—and the sense of reward that flows from that as well as a greater level of academic success—which is likely to improve by the time potential employers become more of a consideration during the teen years. Lifelong habits start young, so let’s raise children who think highly of themselves but will also value the time and efforts of others. Remember they are watching and listening to you. Good luck!