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Punctuality —the key to productivity
For entrepreneurs, productivity is a cornerstone for success. If you can’t get things done in a quick and effective manner, your ambition won’t mean much. And accomplishing your goals is what sets the change-makers apart from the dreamers.
I know this all too well, having spent decades running many companies. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve found that punctuality is one of the simplest ways to improve productivity.
The best way to squeeze as much as possible into a day is to start at the start. Get to wherever you’re going on time. I’ve made being on time a priority throughout my life; so much so that I’m known for doing whatever it takes to beat the clock, including jumping (safely) out of cars while in traffic, and opting instead to catch the Underground (or even run to my next appointment!).
I dislike being late. It not only throws off my plans, it’s also incredibly disrespectful. It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or a carpenter, a politician or a painter, a model or a musician; we all only have 24 hours in a day, and no one’s time is more important than anybody else’s.
Being such a stickler for punctuality, I have adopted a few techniques to help me prioritise being on time.
After more than a half-century in business, I have learned that if I rise early, I can achieve so much more in a day and, therefore, in life. I routinely try to wake up at around 5 am I do some exercise, spend time with my family and catch up on the news. This puts me in a great mindset before I start work. In addition, starting early means I have time to get on top of my tasks and effectively chart my day.
When I get down to business, I like to keep things simple. I’m not a fan of PowerPoint presentations or lengthy business pitches. If I can understand a concept in a few jargon-free sentences, then almost anyone else will be able to get behind it, too.
To help keep things simple, I have taken to conducting many of my meetings while standing up. Having a stand-up meeting is a much quicker way to make a decision or seal a deal. When given the opportunity, I like to take things a step further—literally—with a walking meeting, often to my next appointment. And if I can’t walk to my next appointment, then I’m prone to holding meetings while in transit. (Would you believe me if I told you that I interviewed Virgin Group CEO Josh Bayliss for his first job with us in the back seat of a car while waiting in a traffic jam? It happened.)
But punctuality doesn’t require you to constantly be rushing around or always working within a rigid schedule. It can also be managed through effective delegation and communication. If you can’t make it to an appointment, it’s better to say so and apologise rather than disappoint someone and waste his time. Better still, send someone in your place and ask him to report back to you.
Whether you’re headed to a meeting, a flight or a dinner, it’s important to ensure that you are there when you say you will be there. Of course, this is some old-fashioned advice, but it has served me well. All you have in business is your reputation, so it’s very important that you keep your word.
Plus the best thing about being punctual is that it helps you achieve a better work-life balance. It is easier to effectively manage your day if your schedule doesn’t run overtime. Once you get behind, it’s hard to catch up, and the area of your life that will suffer the most is your personal time.
My punctuality has been key to my productivity as a business leader. It also has allowed me to find time to do the things I love the most, like exercising—kitesurfing, tennis or cycling—and spending time with my family. Achieving work-life balance can be like walking a tightrope: Lean too far to one side and you will topple. Being on time is a great starting point for keeping your balance.
So make punctuality a priority. I promise that if you do, your productivity, reputation and personal life will benefit.
(Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more about the Virgin Group: www.virgin.com.) (Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to Richard.Branson@nytimes.com. Please include your name, country, email address and the name of the website or publication where you read the column.) Why you should always be on time
— By being on time for a meeting, you demonstrate that your time is not more valuable than anyone else’s.
— Not being late preserves your reputation — a very important asset for an entrepreneur.
— Being punctual makes your more productive, and helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance.