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Punctuality As A Business Habit

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

Punctuality is the hinge of business. It is a virtue which we all reverence, in theory at least, even if we do not carry it into practice. The punctual man always works at an immense advantage. He has regard for the convenience of others as well as him-self. No enterprise is ever hindered on his account. He keeps his promises, meets his obligations, stands ready always to do at the proper time what is required of him. The opposite of this trait, or the lack of punctuality, always causes great annoyance, delay and loss. A man who is not punctual interferes with our plans, consumes our time, gives us great uneasiness and implies, if he does not tell us so, that we are beneath his notice and that our plans are not worthy of his regard. The habit of punctuality has reference to money engagements, time engagements and labor engagements, and the man who is habitually on time in these matters is fairly on the way to success. If he is prompt, helpers will arise to assist him confidence will be inspired, and the path of progress made easy and free. This trait is, indeed, a sort of index to one's character. just as lack of system, imprudence, want of tact, are generally associated with other bad qualities, so readiness, punctuality and despatch are associated with those other high qualities of mind, which mark a great man and a good one. The great men of the world have thought it of great consequence to be punctual. Indeed, very much of the distinguished success which they have won is due to their performing their duties, each in proper time. Blackstone was always punctual and never could be made to think well of a man who was not. It is said of Lord Brougham that he did more work than any man in England. He do not carry it into practice. The punctual man always works at an immense advantage. He has regard for the convenience of others as well as him-self. No enterprise is ever hindered on his account. He keeps his promises, meets his obligations, stands ready always to do at the proper time what is required of him. The opposite of this trait, or the lack of punctuality, always causes great annoyance, delay and loss. A man who is not punctual interferes with our plans, consumes our time, gives us great uneasiness and implies, if he does not tell us so, that we are beneath his notice and that our plans are not worthy of his regard. The habit of punctuality has reference to money engagements, time engagements and labor engagements, and the man who is habitually on time in these matters is fairly on the way to success. If he is prompt, helpers will arise to assist him confidence will be inspired, and the path of progress made easy and free. This trait is, indeed, a sort of index to one's character. just as lack of system, imprudence, want of tact, are generally associated with other bad qualities, so readiness, punctuality and despatch are associated with those other high qualities of mind, which mark a great man and a good one. The great men of the world have thought it of great consequence to be punctual. Indeed, very much of the distinguished success which they have won is due to their performing their duties, each in proper time. Blackstone was always punctual and never could be made to think well of a man who was not. It is said of Lord Brougham that he did more work than any man in England. He carried a kingdom on his shoulders in one of the most stormy periods of its history. He presided in the House of Lords and in the Court of Chancery. He gave daily audiences to barristers, men of business and ministers of the crown. He found time to be at the head of at least ten different associations, which were publishing works of useful knowledge. His public labors extended over a period of sixty years, during which time he achieved excellence ira the widely separated fields of law, literature, politics and science. At an age when most men would retire from active labor and seek to pass their old age in quiet, Lord Brougham commenced and carried through a series of elaborate investigations in the theory and properties of light. He afterward submitted. the results of this investigation to the most scientific audiences that London and Paris could muster. And during this long and busy life, Lord Brougham was never known to be late. While a member of so many associations, he was always in his chair at the appointed time, waiting for the meeting to be called to order. He never left a minute unemployed. Work was not only a habit, but a pleasure to him. He loved to labor and to achieve excellence. It was said of him that if he had undertaken to be only a shoe-black, he never would have been content until he was acknowledged the best shoe-black in the British Isles. And all this high achievement and remarkable labor was, in great part, due to the habit of punctuality. Everything was done in its season, had its proper time and, when completed, was immediately abandoned for the next duty.

John Quincy Adams was proverbially punctual. In all his long public life, in which he held more offices under the national government than any other American, he was rarely ever known to be late. It is said of him that when in his old age he was a member of the House of Representatives, the hands of the clock one day pointed to the hour when it was time to call the house together. Some one said the clock must be wrong, for Mr. Adams is not in his seat. Three minutes later the venerable member from Massachusetts entered the hall and took his place, and sure enough, the clock was found to be three minutes fast.

Some men are punctual in reference to their money engagements and careless with reference to their time engagements. It is not only necessary to be punctual to one's promised engagement, but also to implied engagements. The business man, therefore, should always be at his store or shop or office promptly on time. He should be there ready to attend to buying And selling, giving professional advice and attending to all those who expect to find hi' 'at his place of business in the hours of business. -In the complexity of business affairs it is not always possible to be strictly on time, even in the case of the payment of money promised at a certain time. It may be impossible to pay it promptly, but the man who is habitually punctual will not keep his creditors waiting and annoyed. He will be on hand with note or security, or some satisfactory form of settlement, and each time he will confirm confidence and strengthen his integrity, though he may fail a dozen times to actually meet the required payment. There is really no excuse in the majority of cases for a lack of promptness. Prudence, forethought and care will in nearly all cases provide for one's engagements, so that he can be literally on time. Sir Walter Scott, in writing to a youth who had obtained a situation and wished advice, gave him this counsel:

"Your motto must be, `Hoc age.' Do instantly whatever is to be done, and take the hours of recreation after business, never before it. When a regiment is under march, the rear is often thrown into confusion because the front does not move steadily and without interruption. It is the same with business. If that which is first in hand is not instantly, steadily and regularly dispatched other things accummulate behind, till affairs begin to press all at once, and no human brain can stand the confusion."

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