It bothers me when I don’t keep my commitments. It’s the kind of bother that hangs on me for a long time.
For example, I have yet to write a term paper I promised to a college professor before I graduated. That was over thirty years ago, but it still bothers me. He passed me. I failed him—and myself.
Why do I make commitments I don’t keep? I thought about that recently when I was bothered again. This time by someone not keeping their commitment to me. With ease I pointed a finger at him—Why doesn’t he just do what he says he’ll do?—and found three fingers pointing back at me. Why can’t I do what I say I’ll do? So I decided to get some answers to that question:
- I didn’t commit well. I agree to too many commitments and don’t say “no” because I want to be seen as a contributor. Exuberance is my addiction. Ironically, when I fail to deliver, it’s worse than not contributing—I’m a hole in the side of the boat. No one wants one of those.
- I didn’t plan well. I underestimate what it’s going to take to get something done. As someone once put it, “Things always take longer than they do.” Seems that’s even more true when the commitments start to pile up.
- I didn’t prioritize well. It’s true—the busier I am, the more I need to take time to think through and prioritize the most important work first. Otherwise everything becomes equal and I’ll forsake an earlier commitment for a more immediate or enjoyable one.
- I didn’t organize well. Some of the commitments I didn’t keep were simply because I forgot. I failed to record them in my task tracking system, relying instead on my memory or the sticky note that’s lying crumpled in my briefcase somewhere to remind me.
- I didn’t stay with it well. Some tasks require a LOT of energy to get started. These are the ones I’ll tend to put off the longest. And you don’t have to twist my arm to get me distracted from them either. Can you say “squirrel?”
There are probably more but these are my top five. They are reasons, not excuses. Reasons have remedies. Excuses do not. I’m already better than I was, but not what I want to be. How about you?
What are some of the reasons you don’t keep commitments?