• Fulfilling needs at the right moment with the proper use of resources
  • Completing responsibilities punctually and at the correct pace
  • Delivering on time so that others have adequate time to meet their obligations


Timeliness isn’t just about us meeting our deadlines. As I’ve shared before, timeliness is also about properly pacing our work and fulfilling the opportunity we have to help others meet their deadlines.

Please watch this five minute TED video. It’s a group of seven musicians making music using no instruments other than their voices. To me, it is an entertaining video and I like the music; but that’s not why I am asking you watch it. I want you to consider the timing involved in this performance. All seven voices are combining in perfect rhythm to make the music. There are no musical instruments for them to “hide” behind. There are no other devices to help fill the spaces in the song or keep the tempo. Every beat, every sound, every note is delivered by one or more of those seven singers. Without perfect timing, this performance would be a disaster.

Our own work requires many of the same timeliness skills demonstrated in this musical performance: timing, pace, rhythm and careful synchronization between artists. (At Funds For Learning, we are E-rate artists, preparing funding masterpieces for our school clients!) We may not be singing, but we can certainly learn a few things from these musicians.


After you have watched the video, please take this short quiz:

Q1 – Do you think this is the musical group’s first performance together? Second performance? Do you think it’s their fourth time to perform together? Do you think that they have performed other songs together before this one?

Q2 – Do you think they are guessing their way through the song?

Q3 - Do you think that the musicians know when they are supposed to add a “bop” or “mmmmmm” sound? Do you think they know who will sing on the next beat and who will be silent?


A1- This isn’t their first performance together. At the time of this recording, the group had been together TEN YEARS and had done thousands of performances. It’s common sense to anyone watching this video that these artists have performed and practiced together many times – because it takes practice to get good at working together in harmony.Timing takes practice.

A2 – They weren’t making the song up. They knew it. In fact, they recorded the song three years prior to this performance. This wasn’t a new song. It wasn’t a made up song. It was a song that the group had carefully written and prepared. Timing takes knowledge.

A3 – They had a plan. They knew precisely who was going to sing, what they were going to sing, how they were going to sing it, when they would stop singing, and so on. It is not a coincidence that everyone came out and sang their parts at the right time. Timing takes planning.


The answers to this quiz should come as no surprise to you. You may be thinking, “Yes, of course, this group practiced, and knew what they were going to sing, and had planned it all out. How does this relate to my timeliness? I’m not in a band.”

Timeliness isn’t limited to music. The same principals of practice, knowledge and planning apply to the rest of us as much as they do a group of musicians. Without practice, without knowledge and without planning, it is nearly impossible to deliver quality work on time. If we want to improve our timeliness, we have to look past the theory -- yes, we are all in favor of timeliness and have good intentions to meet deadlines -– and consider the essence of what creates timeliness in our work.

You may not see yourself as an artist. Or, if you do, you may not see your colleagues as fellow artists. Consider the video again. Think about the hours and hours of practice that it must take to perform like that.

Now, see yourself in that same light. Understand that great team performances can take years of practice and planning and that everyone needs help on their timing. But in the end, great timeliness can produce masterpieces in your work.


Key Words and Phrases

At the right time; Punctual; Convenient; Prompt; In time; Well-timed; Occurring at a suitable time.

Opposite Terms

Tardy; Too late; Missed chance.


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