On Time for Life

Punctuality and the Pandemic
by Rashelle Isip ’03

found it difficult keeping track of time in the early days of the pandemic. Eventually, I fell into a daily ritual where I’d write the day of the week on a dry-erase board on the refrigerator and draw a line through yesterday’s date on a wall calendar. And yet, my mind continued to insist it was the month of April, even as the calendar clearly read November 2020.

Two yellow-haired figures stand in front of a stopwatch larger than them. Gears and ferns spring from the stopwatch.
“One of the most poignant examples of punctuality during the pandemic was the global push to vaccinate,” says Rashelle Isip ’03, author of four books including, How to Be More Organized Right Now, The Order Expert’s Guide to Time Management, 31 Easy Ways to Get Organized in the New Year, and How to Plan a Great Event in 60 Days.”
You might say I was practicing “being on time” for life. The pandemic intensified our relationship with time. Pre-pandemic, we viewed punctuality as a matter of decorum. Yet throughout the pandemic, we repeatedly witnessed countless punctuality-fueled situations.

We watched with anticipation as scientists collaborated in a race against time to create effective vaccines. Next came crucial clinical trials, pressing vaccine approvals, ramped-up vaccine production and deliveries. We realized punctuality meant not only respecting ourselves, loved ones, and local communities, but the world.

One of the most poignant examples of punctuality during the pandemic was the global push to vaccinate. Never has there been such a phenomenon at both the personal and societal level. The rush to schedule a vaccination appointment and be punctual to it was tremendous. Suddenly, punctuality became personal. We shopped for essential items during designated hours. We applauded the heroic actions of health care, emergency, essential, and frontline workers. We adapted to remote work and carved strong professional and personal boundaries for improved work-life balance. We collectively shared the passage of time together in real time while spending time apart in our individual households. We could stay updated on current events thanks to our 24-hour news cycle, have a video call with a family member across the country, or dance in our living rooms thanks to a DJ spinning turntables halfway around the world. This luxury of time spent together — while apart — was certainly not the case during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Based on our shared pandemic experiences, most people still respect being punctual. If anything, punctuality can be seen as an ongoing self-improvement project; every calendar entry provides an opportunity for development and growth. And we continue to do everything we can to protect the time we do have with loved ones through vaccinations, mask wearing, and social distancing. It’s easy to reflect on the past 30 months and recount how punctuality played such a transformative part of our lives. But the real challenge is whether we continue to value those seemingly insignificant minutes every single day. The ones that mean the difference between life and death. Let’s make the most of the time we have with the people we love. Let’s treasure and honor small moments of time, no matter how brief. Let’s practice being on time for life.

Rashelle Isip ’03 is a time management coach and productivity consultant and author.