The Skills of Being On Time

“Sorry. I’m just a late person.”

I’ve heard this rationale from students, work colleagues, and friends over and over throughout my life. This excuse implies that being on time is an innate trait, a personality characteristic that someone may or may not have. Is this true? Can we say that being on time is the same as other personality traits such as compassion, work ethic, or sense of humor? Being on time is a skill, and an individual can improve his or her ability to be on time.

Using executive function skills, let’s break down what goes into being on time. The most common example for college students is getting to class on time. It’s very important to get to class on time. Let’s examine what it takes to get there.

Planning: Many students live in a day-to-day world not knowing what they have the next day, let alone the next week. Repetitive events, like a class schedule, can be tough to keep track of. Non-repetitive events are even more difficult to keep track of for students who lack planning skills. The process of planning and anticipating is a multiple-times per day activity. Students must be constantly looking ahead, visualizing, and preparing for what is to come in order to be on time.

Time Management: Awareness of time and the ability to visualize is crucial. College students can often completely underestimate the amount of time that different tasks will take. Determining how difficult tasks will be, when they can be done, and how long they are going to take can be quite challenging for many college students.. Each one of these components has to be considered to determine what time to eat breakfast, shower, pack a backpack, and step out the door. We take for granted the assumption that everyone has the skills to make this type of analysis and be in a chair before class starts.

Organization: This is keeping track of space and materials. If the time management piece exists, and students give themselves enough time to get ready, then they need to make sure they keep track of all slides, folders, notebooks, and other supplies. Having a system and being neat and tidy is boring, but it is essential for college students to be efficient students.

Initiation: Of course, to kick start the process of a new activity, a student must be able to initiate or shift from another activity. This usually involves stepping away from the TV, phone, or computer to start getting ready for class.

It’s pretty simple to see that executive function skills can create many challenges to being on time. In order to become an on-time person, there are many skills that need to be developed. It is very easy to use the initial reasoning that being late is a personality trait, but in reality these are very important life skills that need to be practiced and improved.

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