Over the past week, two people have – independently – thanked me for simply doing what I said I’d do.
In a perfect world, we’d take it for granted that people would actually come through on their promises and commitments. But in the real world, it’s the sad truth that many people – in business and in their personal lives – don’t always put their words into action.
You probably know a few people who always talk big, but never come through for you. Perhaps they promise to help out, and let you down at the last minute. Maybe they’re constantly running late. And, over time, you realize that this is just a habit with them: you can’t rely on them to do what they’ve said they’ll do.
Of course, none of us are perfect. I know I’ve had times when I had to reluctantly back out of a commitment, and I expect you have too. Stuff comes up. Problems happen. But you want to do everything you can to be a man or woman of your word.
- Don’t Over-CommitThe easiest way to avoid flaking out on commitments is to make sure you don’t take on too much in the first place.
This means learning to say “no” – not just to other people, but also to yourself. Opportunities will come your way constantly, and you need to be choosy about which ones you latch onto. Think of these opportunities as items on a restaurant menu: sure, you might be keen on half a dozen of the entrees, but that doesn’t mean you’d order them all at once.
- Don’t Back Out at the Last MinuteIf you do end up over-committing, and you think you won’t be able to stick to what you’ve agreed to, then let people know as far in advance as possible.
Let’s say you’ve said you’ll help your friend John to move his stuff to a new apartment one Saturday … and you’ve also agreed to take on overtime that week to help out in the office. You might realize that you’re going to be exhausted by Saturday, and that the last thing you’ll want to do is to help John.
Don’t put off a decision until Saturday morning, then cry off. Instead, let John know in advance. You might want to change your commitment (“I can help in the afternoon, but not in the morning”) rather than backing out completely.
- Don’t Be DisorganizedSometimes, people have great intentions, but live in such a state of confusion and disorganization that there’s no hope of them ever following through.
Mistakes do happen – but it’s hugely embarrassing to forget completely about a commitment that you’ve made, only to get a phone call asking if your colleagues (or fellow volunteers) should continue waiting for you before they start the meeting.
Make sure your diary or calendar system is easy and intuitive for you to use, and that it flags up reminders at appropriate points. When you make new commitments, ensure you record them somewhere: don’t rely on your memory alone.
- Don’t Be LateIt might seem like a small thing, but being punctual shows your respect for other people’s time.
If you constantly seem to be running late, then look at what’s going wrong. Are you over-optimistic about travel times, only to get stuck in traffic? Are you prone to getting wrapped up in your work, to the point where you always leave late? Are you simply so busy that it seems impossible to keep on top of everything? Do other meetings always overrun, with a knock-on effect?
When possible, arrive early for meetings, appointments, and similar. Take a book with you, so you’ve got something to read if you have to wait around. If you find that meetings keep overrunning, then build in extra buffer time between one meeting and the next.
Like I said before, none of us are perfect – we’ve all over-committed at times, or just plain forgotten to do something that we’d agreed to. And sometimes emergencies crop up. But if you make a sincere, consistent effort to do what you’ve said you’ll do, you’ll find that you’re seen as someone reliable and trustworthy – the sort of person who bosses love to promote and who clients love to work with.
If you’ve got any tips to share on this, just leave a comment below.