15 Minutes Early

One of the lessons I learned back when I was a security supervisor was why showing up 15 minutes early to your job is so important. Most people think planning to show up early is simply a good way to make sure you’re always on time, but it’s also valuable to allow you to do your job well.

Years ago when I was working security I was up for promotion to become a shift supervisor. When the current supervisors learned I was up for the promotion each of them took me aside and warned me about the extra load of work. They all shook their heads in approximately the same way and lamented how the company screwed supervisors. I was informed that all supervisors stayed at least an hour past the end of their shift in order to finish up paperwork, and this was unpaid. I was young, and eager to have something on my resume so the warnings did not dissuade me, but if I had been in a different position I may have not taken the promotion due to the warnings.

After I interviewed with my boss for the promotion my boss paused for a moment, and then said, “Look… you’ve probably heard…” and he started to talk to me about supervisors staying after their sift. He looked at me and with a shake of his head said most supervisors ended up spending an hour after their shift finishing paperwork, but that was because they always walked in the door the minute their shift started. He sighed and said to me simply that if I showed up 15 minutes early, grabbed a cup of coffee, read over the pervious shifts logs, asked the previous shift questions before they left, that I’d always be out the door the minute my soft ended.

The problem with the shift supervisors is that they gave themselves no time to get up to speed before they needed to do their job. Supervisors were constantly getting calls from over 20 buildings for issues as small as security officers not having all of their uniform, to full fledged bomb threats. Every building had to be dealt with professionally. So you couldn’t tell a low priority customer to bugger off simply because another customer had a bigger issue. Since we were on 8 hour sifts and ran 24 hours a day many problems would not be solved during a single shift and so information and work had to be handed from one supervisor to another. So if a supervisor walked in at the exact start of their shift they would have to get up to speed at the same time that they had to work on problems in real time. Additionally the other supervisors were trying to get out the door so they were rushed and not always overly helpful in relaying information.

So I took my bosses advice and showed up 15 minutes early. Showing up early is a good rule in general to have as an employee, and having been in the military I was well ingrained with the idea that you should be 15 minutes early to being 15 minutes early. And I’ll tell you the darnd’est thing… Near 100% of the time my paperwork was done 30 minutes before the end of sift, and I walked out the door a few minutes after my shift ended.

By showing up early I was able to get my paperwork situated as I sipped on some horrid coffee. I was able to scan the logs, ask questions, clarify issues, etc. Most importantly I was able to get my head in the game. When I sat down at the desk I was ready to roll. There was stress, but generally I never felt behind the ball.

This is something to think about when you go to your work. So many people get high and mighty about the idea that they won’t work a second more than they get paid for. Why should they show up early if they are not being paid? The thing is most of us get paid for doing a job. If you don’t get the job done one way or the other we won’t get paid regardless. By showing up the second your sift begins you give yourself no time to settle in, get the feel for what’s going on, and generally get your head in the game. From the moment you walk in the door you have to be working, and then people wonder why they always feels so behind the ball.

To make an example think of if your job was like a martial art studio. When I did martial arts I’d come in, say my hellos to fellow students, put on my work out gear, take a piss, maybe take a sip of water, do some light stretching, take a few swings at the heavy bag, and then go out on the mat. I showed up early so that when it was time to hit the mat I was ready. Now imagine if I gave myself no extra time. What if I walked in the door to the dojo and one minute later someone was throwing a kick to my head? The first time I did that would be exhilarating, but in general that’s a stressful way to train.

That’s what you’re doing when you walk in your jobs door right at the start of your shift. Is it really any wonder why so many people feel as if they just can’t get their feet under them at work? Showing up 15 minutes early isn’t just about being a good employee, it’s also a way to help keep your sanity.

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