I wrote recently about the necessity of a backup plan to ensure you can fulfill your obligations even when things go wrong. It’s just as important, though, to remember that even the little promises count. All of them do.
Most of us receive requests constantly — from media opportunities to providing guest blog content or images to giving advice on a problem. And most of us (myself heartily included) tend to say “yes” too much. Few of us want to disappoint others; few of us want the publicity well to dry up.
The thing is, when “yes” comes out of your mouth, it matters. You’re making a commitment to another person, one that should be honored. It’s not the other person’s fault or concern that you have difficulty turning down requests that are too taxing. That’s on you to manage. (And, again, I say this as someone who struggles with it on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.)
So, while strategies for becoming comfortable with “no” are a subject for another post, what I want to write about today is strategies for juggling the “yes.” When you make a promise to someone else, however small, you need a way to ensure that you keep that promise. Your professional image depends on it.
First and foremost, you need a method for capturing the promises you make. I’m a big fan of creating sub-folders in my email, and I have one specifically for items others are waiting for from me. When I promise someone something in an email, I drag that message into the sub-folder and then I make sure to check that folder every single day to ensure I stay on top of my commitments.
This method can work if you keep a paper “to-do” list, too. Just make some kind of designation of items that you’ve promised someone else — circling them, highlighting them, whatever works — and then make sure those items become a priority at some point during that day.
Using your calendar can also be advantageous. Every deadline-driven promise I make goes on my calendar, with a reminder alarm set early enough that I can still complete the task even if I forget up until the moment that alarm sounds. I also sometimes use my calendar to block appointments with myself to work on a specific project. The busier you are, the more important this step becomes.
Finally, when a request is something pretty small — for example, a task that will take five minutes or less — then try the “just do it” approach. Seriously. Agreeing to do something and then putting it off for later often magnifies the task, making it seem more challenging and therefore more likely to be put off indefinitely. If someone needs a quick quote, a single photo, or a piece of information that you have readily available, consider just jumping on it immediately. You’ll feel better about having it out of the way, and the person you’re helping also gets to cross something off his/her to-do list. Everyone wins.
Now, I’m off to go take care of a few things I promised to others. Won’t you join me?