A very shameful trait that has become common in Muslim communities is tardiness. People joke about the concept of “Muslim Standard Time”. Despite how ubiquitous this habit is, it’s a habit that any Muslim man wanting to emulate the Prophet ﷺ should remove from his life. The Prophet ﷺ said “Verily Allah has prescribed ihsan (perfection) in all things.” (Muslim). Part of having ihsan is being punctual.
The importance of being on time
Shows that you are disciplined
Discipline is something which you should not only have but should also appear to have. When you arrive late, you look undisciplined. When you’re always present on time, you give off the impression that you are detail oriented and have a high work ethic in all aspects of your life.
Shows you are a man of integrity
The Prophet ﷺ described one of the characteristics of a hypocrite as “If he promises he breaks his promise” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim). When you tell someone you’ll be somewhere at a certain time, you’re making them a promise. Showing up fifteen—or even five—minutes late is breaking that promise. If you can’t be depended on to keep a promise as simple as this, people will wonder what else you can be depended on for? Where else will you fail when you’re needed?
Being late shows that you consider your time more valuable than the other person’s time. You don’t know what the other person had to do to arrive to meet you. They might have woken up earlier than usual, they might have skipped an errand they had to run, they might have left home without getting a proper breakfast. By showing up late, you make it clear that you don’t care about any of that, you only care about you being able to do what you want and then have the person patiently wait for you to see them at your convenience.
Keeps you calm
When you’re running late, everything becomes more stressful. You get frustrated when you’re at a red light, you feel the need to drive recklessly, and you neglect common courtesies like holding the door open for people. When you’ve budgeted enough time to arrive early, you stay calm and act true to your own nature
Being late causes complications
Tardiness breeds problems. It might lead to speeding and thus a ticket or even an accident. It can cause you to lie to cover up your mistake. It can lead to missing key information in class or meetings that causes you trouble down the road. Simplify your life by being on time.
How to be on time
Get the right mindset
The first step to being punctual is consciously wanting to be punctual. If your knee-jerk reaction is to make excuses for why being on time isn’t important, you’ll never have enough motivation to change. Put aside the mindset that you’re late because you’re busy or important. The most successful people in the world are extremely busy and yet they tend to be the most punctual. Look at punctuality (or lack thereof) as an outward manifestation of your character.
Plan to be early
Live by the phrase, “Ten minutes early is five minutes late.” Make it your habit to be fifteen minutes early to everything. Don’t consider that fifteen minutes as wasted time. Use those fifteen minutes as down time. Read a book, catch up on the news, make dhikr, or just sit and relax. The buffer time of fifteen minutes early will usually end up being closer to 5-10 minutes early and thus
Track your time
Some people tend to plan their time based on an ideal rather than the reality. You might budget 10 minutes for a shower when in reality, you usually take 15. You might set aside 15 minutes for your commute to work when it actually tends to run 25 minutes. Time yourself for these things. Every day for a week, look at the clock before you go into the bathroom and when you come out. You’ll get an average for how long it takes you go brush your teeth and shower and do everything else in the morning. Add five minutes to that. Use that number. Similarly, time your commute every day for a week. Average it and then add five minutes. Use these as rough numbers when you make plans in the future.
Plan your day
In our college stories, we talked about the importance of having a calendar. When you don’t have your day planned out properly, you’re liable to spend too much time on certain things and then play catch up the rest of the day. You also greatly increase the risk of forgetting about an appointment and then only remembering it at the last minute.
When you should not be on time
There are some instances where being on time can cause the other person more inconvenience. For things like weddings or dinner parties, the appropriate time to arrive varies by culture. In some cultures, 5-10 minutes late is considered polite. In others, 2-3 hours is the expected arrival time. Don’t show up on time just to make a point. Be polite and take the other person’s expectation into account and arrive accordingly.