One of the challenges I have is working with students and parents who do not show up on time to their appointments. While it may seem trivial, arriving on time can help make a strong first impression; arriving late, or missing your appointment all together, really leaves a negative impression.
Unfortunately, it seems to be that being late to a meeting is normal, and people almost expect that the other party will also be late. However, this isn’t a normal behavior by which you should live, especially when you’re at a key stage in life when making first impressions are really important. The earlier you understand the value of keeping time, the more natural it will become for you.
When you’re late to a meeting, you’re basically telling the other person that your own time is more valuable than their time, and that you don’t care whether they have other meetings or places to be for the day. You want to meet when it’s convenient for you, regardless of a scheduled appointment. When you don’t keep time, you throw off the other person’s schedule and productivity. It can’t be stressed enough: being late is disrespecting the other person’s schedule, and it leaves a negative impression before you even speak.
Keeping time not only shows that you’re respectful of other people, it also shows that you’re organized and can be trusted. These are two great qualities for which to be known! Think of it this way, if you’re having trouble being on time for a simple meeting, how can you be trusted to keep other commitments?
After living in the United States for ten years, I learned that “to be early is to be on time and to be on time is to be late.” This can be seen even in non-formal interactions, too! When I would invite friends over for dinner at 6:00 pm, the food should be served not long after they arrive. While being early may be a big jump for some to handle, it’s something for which we should strive. But I encourage everyone to take baby steps: try being on time!
Here are guidelines to make sure you don't make a negative first impression:
- Before you make the appointment confirm that you truly do have time available. Nothing like having to call back to reschedule because a non-emergency situation came up. Again you are insulting that person.
- Confirm the location. Even if you think you know it, follow up to confirm where you’re meeting.
- Take into consideration how much time you will need to get there and plan ahead. Always leave room for unexpected obstacles to ensure that you can still arrive on time. Traffic is a mess most of the time in Nairobi – plan ahead!
- There is no harm in being early, carry your work with you.
- I know that sometimes it can't be avoided and you just might be late. If that is the case you MUST call the person ahead of time and let them know. Give them a realistic time of when you will get there. I can't tell you how many times I've been told just 10 more minutes which have turned out to be an hour. Being honest will allow the other person to determine whether to wait or set another meeting.
This simple rule of keeping time is an important rule as you prepare yourself to attend universities abroad as well as life as a professional. Start your meeting off well, be on time!