Being punctual with the sunnah and nafl prayers will help you to attain khushūʿ in ṣalāh.
Performing the sunnah prayers before the farḍ prayers is akin to stretching before exercising. Starting with the sunnah prayers awakens your heart and prepares you for attaining greater khushūʿ in the fard prayers. Performing sunnah prayers after the farḍ prayers compensates for deficiencies in the farḍ prayers.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The first action which a servant of Allah will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgement will be his ṣalāh. If it is complete, he will triumph and succeed; if it is defective, he will fail and be doomed. If there is something defective in his farḍ prayers, then the Almighty Lord will say, ‘See if my servant has any voluntary prayers that can make up for the shortcomings in his farḍ prayers.’ Then, the rest of his deeds will be [judged] like that” (Tirmidhī).
Don’t Miss the 12
Try your best to perform the 12 rakʿahs known as the rawātib or sunnah mu’akkadah prayers on time. These were prescribed by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ: two before Fajr, four before Ẓuhr, two after Ẓuhr, two after Maghrib and two after ʿIshā’. Whenever you feel lazy, remind yourself of the reward: “There is no Muslim slave who prays twelve rakʿahs for Allah every day voluntarily, apart from the farḍ prayers, except that Allah will build a mansion for him in Paradise” (Muslim).
He ﷺ also said, “Whoever maintains four rakʿahs before Ẓuhr and four after it, Allah will make the Hell-fire unlawful for him” (Abū Dāwūd). Furthermore, he ﷺ stated, “The two [sunnah] rakʿahs of Fajr are better than the world and everything it contains” (Muslim).
Moreover, the Prophet ﷺ made a special duʿā’ for the one who prays the sunnah prayers before ʿAṣr: “May Allah have mercy upon a person who prays four rakʿahs before ʿAṣr” (Aḥmad).
One way to ensure you always arrive before the first takbīr of the congregational prayers is to always come for the sunnah prayers before ṣalāh. If you are delayed for any reason, you will still likely be on time for the first takbīr.
Similarly, if you seek always to pray your sunnah prayers, then aim to arrive early enough to perform nafl prayers. Accordingly, if for any reason you are delayed on the way, you’re still likely to arrive on time to complete the sunnah prayers inshā’Allah.
“Whoever takes adab (the best manner of doing things) lightly will be punished by being deprived of the sunnah. Whoever takes the sunnah lightly will be punished by being deprived of the farā’iḍ (obligations). And whoever takes the farā’iḍ (obligations) lightly will be deprived of becoming acquainted with Allah.” – ʿAbdullāh b. al-Mubārak (raḥimahullāh)