The other night, I had a very long and disturbing dream. I was living in a modest, urban apartment, sleeping peacefully. Suddenly, I was jarred awake by a loud crash. Moments later, I heard a fist pounding on my door. A man wearing a hard hat and holding a clipboard informed me the building will be demolished in less than 24 hours and that I needed to pack up and evacuate immediately.
In a half heart-wrenching panic/half utter incredulity, I took a quick inventory of what needed packing. To my relief, I didn’t notice too many belongings.
I can work fast and get this done today. But, why in the heck did no one tell me about this demolition? And where I am going to live?
Then, my phone beeped, reminding me of a flight for a business trip scheduled to depart in 2 hours. My world felt like it was crashing down all around me – literally! Somehow, I pulled myself together and called just in time to re-book the flight. As I was hastily packing up my things, I grew angrier at each passing minute. I saw no signage anywhere about the demolition plans. Building management hadn’t said a peep. How could I possibly miss something this important? A little while later, I found a 4-month-old newspaper. Lo and behold – an article about the city’s plans to demolish my place of residence and replace with an office complex splashed across the front page.
This anecdote was obviously a dream. Admittedly, though, one of my greatest fears is missing important deadlines. I hate that sinking feeling when – on a rare occasion – I miss an appointment because I entered the wrong day or time in my calendar. But it happens. We’re busy. Some of us are doing the jobs of multiple people – either at home, in the office, or both. And, life’s occasional curveballs whizzing by our heads leaves us little, if any, margins for error.
Today, I missed a coaching call because I entered the time in my calendar as Central Time instead of Eastern Time. This pained me, as I had been looking forward to this call and rearranged my morning activities around it. Thankfully, I’ve been able to reschedule. Yet, I had no one to blame but myself for the time zone oversight.
Chances are, you’ve been – or will be at some point – on both the offensive and defensive end with missed deadlines or appointments.
The following may come off as a bit obvious, but – if you’re on the offense:
- Own Up To It –ASAP. It never ceases to amaze me how many people simply don’t acknowledge their faux pas. Keep in mind that the person(s) with whom you were to meet are likely just as busy as you, and they’ll never be able to reclaim those minutes they waited in your absence.
- Apologize, and Provide a Brief Explanation. Had to stay home with a sick child and missed a deadline? Got a flat tire on the way to your meeting? Things happen. Just don’t embellish too much on the details. You’ll appear as though you’re lying. At the very least, you’ll probably annoy the other party. That is, unless you can tell a story unusual and engaging enough to tell onstage at Open Mic Night.
- Go the Extra Distance to Remedy the Problem. Need to reschedule a missed appointment or finish up an overdue project with an overflowing schedule? Re-prioritize and rearrange. Chances are, there’s something on your agenda that can wait.
- Be Kind to Yourself – But Don’t Make This a Habit, Either! No good will come from beating yourself up over a missed deadline or appointment. You’re human. Just make a pact with yourself to hold on to the reins of your schedule a little tighter.
The job market is competitive enough. You don’t want to establish yourself as unreliable. That’s the professional kiss of death.
And, if you’re on the receiving end…
- Show Some Grace and Don’t Judge – especially if this is the first “offense”. He or she may be facing some extra challenges at home. Keep in mind you will likely drop the ball at some point. And when that day comes, you’ll want to be shown some flexibility and understanding.
- Fool-Proof the Deadline/Appointment. Send brief reminder emails and texts. And, if you correspond with those in other time zones, PLEASE accentuate the time zone for which you’re scheduling the meeting or deadline. If possible, translate the meeting time or deadline to the recipient’s time zone in your reminder messages. With the exception of those who frequently correspond with others across the country – or across the world – we’re typically hard-wired to default to the time zone in which we live.
Most people are understanding and are likely to appreciate honesty and initiative when you’ve “missed the memo”. Reciprocally, be mindful of others’ valuable time. Be kind to yourself and one another. It’ll prove to be more beneficial than you realize.