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Time flies when you’re always late

I remember being 6 or 7. It was school holidays and I was in my gran’s back yard. One hand stretched out holding onto the metal pole that anchored her washing line, I was spinning round and round in circles getting drunk. I was bored out of my mind. I loved school. I missed school. Yes, I was a nerd like that.

When you’re little, time drags on and on but the truth is that I didn’t really have much concept of time. When my mother said “tomorrow” she may as well have said “next year”. I just wanted my birthday/our road trip/Eid to arrive already! Do you still remember that pure unadulterated excitement of being unable to sleep because you just couldn’t wait? What an insanely decadent problem to have.

When you’re little, time goes so slowly…

Today, like you, I don’t have the luxury of that problem anymore. 10 extra hours in the day actually wouldn’t help. Rather than ask for more time, this has made me respect time. And I now spend time thinking about, well, how I want to spend my time. Time is money but it’s so much more than that – you can’t possibly buy any more if you were insanely wealthy – ask the man on his death bed.

I owe this perspective on time to my first employer. No matter where I go in life my roots and values where shaped at the best school of professionalism in the world, Procter & Gamble. At P&G the rules were simple really: impossible is nothing; you always look the part; deliver on your promises and key, was that you did all of the above on time. It wasn’t really anything people there spoke about, it was ingrained culture – what we jokingly called “being Procterised”. I believe it, I live it and hold myself to these standards every day.

I quickly learned these rules don’t apply to everyone and certainly not to the rest of the world. That’s the problem with a standard – you start to hold everyone around you to it too. I don’t and I never will understand why being on time is such a challenge for some people. “Traffic” has got to be the lamest excuse ever – I wish you could see me roll my eyes when you send *that* sms 10 mins after you’re supposed to be here. If you’ve lived in Jhb for longer than a month, I make no apologies when I say that doesn’t cut it.

Utterly frustrated by the general lack of time keeping in the world, I once resorted by actually planning to arrive late for appointments myself to limit my own frustration. But I would arrive 10 or 15 mins late as planned and still be the first one there. Imagine that.

Needless to say that plan was quickly abandoned. After all, the biggest disservice you can do to yourself is change to suit the people around you – who are they anyway? Well, outside of the office they’re generally people you care for and choose to spend time with. But, if they can’t respect your time perhaps your caring is misplaced. Cruel? True.

Time keeping doesn’t just apply to the office – we all have appointments, things to do, places to be – it’s a general part of life. I like planning my time – helps me get the most out of it. Just this week I called up a spa and made an appointment for August. The receptionist laughed and said “you’re really organised hey?” Yes I am. That’s how I roll.

 Am I a stickler for time? Yes. Proudly. I run my life by MS Outlook – the days my maid is due to work, vacations, dates with girlfriends and when my favourite shows will be back on TV. In the 15 minutes you’re late, I could have painted my nails, had a cup of coffee or replied to some emails. Instead here I am, because I wanted to spend time with you. Waiting. Again.

But let me say there needs to be a level of flexibility and I allow for that. I’m late sometimes too, despite the best planning. But I promise that isn’t my modus operandi and I promise to give you a heads up if I will be – ahead of when you expect me so you can plan too. I promise that if I’m late and you don’t hear from me – it’s only because I’m lying in ditch somewhere, dead.

If time is so precious, you should mind it. And the time of those around you. Would you steal something, even a small something like a pen from anyone? Then why would you steal their time? Get off the couch sooner. Oh & while you’re at it, check the address in the Outlook invite I sent you before you call me for directions.

When you’re late, you’re telling me that your time is more important than mine. No matter who you are that will never be true.


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