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Punctuality refers to a person's arriving at an event or completing a task by an agreed-upon time.

The word "punctuality" usually has a positive connotation, but we have discussed ways in which punctuality can be unhealthy if it is emphasized to the detriment of other values.

Harm from over-emphasis on punctuality

Internally-imposed punctuality

People can sometimes feel constrained by a vague sense of obligation to be on-time in arriving at a meeting or completing a project. A person universally holding themselves to a high standard of punctuality without weighing the stakes of being late can be problematic, because it can cause unnecessary stress and/or cause a person to hurry in ways that are harmful. Hurrying or acting hastily can cause a wide range of problems, such as endangering people's physical safety if a person speeds in car, or sacrificing the quality of work being done if a person hurries a task.

A person's vague sense of obligation can be the result of irrational or fallacious thinking about the consequences of being late. For example, a person might exaggerate the negative impacts of being late, or reason that people will be unhappy or upset with them for being late when in reality people would not be. Clear thinking about punctuality involves weighing the costs and benefits of lateness in a rational way, and can lead to better prioritization about when punctuality is more or less important.

Externally-imposed punctuality

In some public schools in the United States, especially at the middle school level, but also at the high school level, teachers and school administrators can sometimes strictly enforce rules about arriving at classes or other events or activities on time, using disciplinary measures such as detention or suspension for students who are late. We have discussed the potential for this type of treatment of students to create an unhealthy internal sense of punctuality, in which a student develops a vague sense of obligation for being on-time, without learning to weigh the costs and benefits of punctuality.

Employers can also impose requirements or penalties relating to punctuality.