Work Traits

Ability to Stick to a Schedule

The ability to stick to a schedule is especially helpful in operational and functional leadership roles, as well as project and event management.
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What is the ability to stick to a schedule?

The ability to stick to a schedule means you believe that time is money. When you possess a strong ability to stick to a schedule, you assign a lot of importance to when something will occur and for how long. You want to know the deadline, as well as how many hours you need to allocate to that task.

You’ve been known to ask questions like, “How much time will this take?” and, “How can we be more efficient?” As a result, your team perceives you as timely, productive, and focused, but also sometimes unrealistic and impatient.

To you, punctuality is a sign of respect and you become frustrated when people don’t hold the same regard or awareness of time. You’ll admit that you need to fight the urge to mutter under your breath whenever a meeting runs long.

We call it: Time

Your level of focus on when something will occur, schedules, and allotting of time.

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days.

Annie Dillard

Leaders who have the ability to stick to a schedule

Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi

Legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, didn’t just believe in being on time—he believed in being early. 

He expected his players to show up at least 15 minutes early to practice and is famously quoted as saying, “If you are five minutes early, you are already ten minutes late.” 

His passion for promptness and sticking to a schedule is so notorious that, to this day, the clock on the outside of Lambeau Field (the home stadium of the Green Bay Packers, who Lombardi coached from 1959-1967) is set to “Lombardi Time,” which is 15 minutes ahead of the correct time.

Elon Musk

CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, takes scheduling to an extreme. Rather than setting a rough agenda for the day, he gets as specific as possible with how he’ll use his time. 

He breaks his entire workday down into five-minute increments (a technique called “time blocking”) and assigns a specific task to each of those time blocks.

It keeps him on track and boosts his productivity. And, while scheduling every single five-minute chunk of the day might feel a little cumbersome for you, it undoubtedly works for Musk.

Elon Musk
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Mary Callahan Erdoes

As CEO of JP Morgan Asset & Wealth Management, Mary Callahan Erdoes is undoubtedly busy. That’s why she makes every effort to rule her calendar, as opposed to letting it take over her workday. “Calendar management is the single most important thing, especially as you get busy and have more responsibilities,” she said in an interview with CNBC. 

“You have to be maniacally focused on owning your calendar, on having the lists of what you need from other people and what other people need from you. What are the short-term issues that need to be dealt with? What are the long-term issues?” she continued in that same interview.

“Unless you can stay on top of that religiously, it will end up owning you, and that’s not a way to go about staying organized and being on top of things.”

The benefits of the ability to stick to a schedule

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Late? Not you. You place a high value on punctuality and arrive early to meetings, appointments, and other commitments. You’re also not one to miss a deadline.

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Efficient meetings

Because you live by your schedule, you don’t let meetings blow by their originally-scheduled time. You keep conversations on track so that meetings fit within their allotted time windows.

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Your commitment to your schedule doesn’t just mean you know when to get things done—you also know when it’s time to shut down. This helps you maintain healthy boundaries between your work and personal life.

The blind spots of the ability to stick to a schedule

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Things don’t always go according to plan, and you can experience increasing stress levels when something runs over your intended schedule.

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Your tendency to assign deadlines and time estimates is helpful to you, but it can make you look impatient to some of your coworkers.

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Because you look at the clock or your schedule to guide you, you might stop work on a project or task because your calendar says you should—without completing what was required.

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How to build the ability to stick to a schedule

1) Work in time blocks.

Take a page from the book of Elon Musk and start working in time blocks. Rest assured that you don’t need to go so far as to split your day into five-minute chunks. Even splitting your day into half-hour or hour-long increments can be helpful.

Go through and assign specific activities to each of those time blocks. That will hold you accountable to a schedule, eliminate distractions, and boost your productivity.

2) Set timers.

Are you somebody who tends to get absorbed in your work and lose track of your hours? Alarms can help you keep a closer eye on the time.

For example, if your schedule for the day says you have a half hour to work on a specific task, set an alarm to go off when that half hour is up. That will be the nudge you need to move on to whatever is next on your list. 

3) Build in a time buffer.

People who possess the ability to stick to a schedule believe in punctuality. To ensure you arrive at meetings and other commitments on time, build in a time buffer.

Imagine that you need to arrive at that appointment 10 minutes before its actual start time, and then plan accordingly. You’ll no longer run late.

4) Assign deadlines.

Like anybody, you have your fair share of projects that don’t have a hard end date—and they can easily stretch into eternity as a result.

Get into the habit of setting self-imposed milestones and deadlines. Even if nobody else is aware of that schedule, it will help you manage your time and continue making progress.

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