American Culture 101 – Timeliness
American culture places a lot of emphasis on time and its importance. Timeliness is considered one of the most important American values, defined as “the fact or quality of being done or occurring at a favorable or useful time” (Oxford Languages). Americans expect things to be done quickly and well. So, make time to accomplish them to give an excellent impression to your peers! You’ll undoubtedly have built some credibility if you manage to deliver consistently! Just plan, so you never run out of time for your assignments, whether from school or work!
Americans also like to set clear deadlines. So it is not uncommon if your boss writes that they need a report and it’s due by “10 a.m. tomorrow” instead of “asap.” The phrase “as soon as possible” leaves too much room for interpretation, and naturally, Americans will frown upon anything that may cause them to waste time.
The concept of time is present all over our society. Time after time, we see it, for example, being explored in movies and literature, challenging our perception through the use of flashbacks and plot twists. However, Americans usually think of the time in more practical terms. In the US, punctuality is vital, especially in business settings. After all, time is money — a few minutes early for a business meeting is actually “being on time,” while being on time for a meeting is more like being “slightly late.”
Outside of business, punctuality is also important in the US, but not as much — it’s all very dependent on the occasion and whom you’re spending time with. For example, let’s say you’re going to a party! Though there’s some flexibility, in this case, it is still advisable to let the other person know if you’re running late as soon as possible. Just try not to be more than 15 minutes late, and don’t be early either, or you might give your host a hard time! They might still be getting ready for the event, and it could be challenging for them to find the spare time to entertain you before the other guests arrive.
As time goes by, the pressure to live in such a demanding society makes Americans realize that time off is also vital for effective time management. Having some time off from time to time is fundamental in maintaining the same level of efficacy. Taking time off increases productivity, but it also improves the quality of life. According to the American Psychological Association research, employees who take a vacation “think positively,” with productivity improving by 31 percent, sales increasing by 37 percent, and creativity and revenues tripling!* So don’t forget that killing time might also mean you’re saving yourself some time (as well as money) in the long run. In other words, recharging might keep you on top of your game without making you feel burned out! Now that sounds like you’d be having the time of your life, doesn’t it?
If we think about it, so much is said about time… Look at the many expressions using the word “time” (in blue) in this short entry alone! We hear all sorts of things, that time heals all wounds… That it’s also wise since only time will tell! However, time can be tricky: time flies, and it’s unstoppable. It’s also irreplaceable since you can’t turn back the hands of time…
Therefore, when someone makes themselves available to spend some quality time with you, they’re giving you one of the most generous presents they can give you, considering their gift to you is a part of their life they will never get back! So be appreciative and take your time to fully enjoy it!
* from the book “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work” by Shawn Achor (Crown Business, 2010)
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