Are You Overcommitted?

Apr 28, 2011

“Never promise more than you can perform.”
Publilius Syrus (Roman Author, 1st Century B.C.)

Purpose of this post – To improve the way you manage your commitments, therefore, optimizing productivity and performance

Do you feel overcommitted? My guess is that a lot of you would say yes. The real question is, do you have too much on your plate? Or, do you truly understand what you’ve committed to? It may simply be that you don’t have the full picture of your commitments (i.e. outcomes/projects) so you’re always running up hill, jumping from project to project, not knowing where you’re headed next. Let’s face it, you could have five projects going, but it may seem like fifty. Or, if you’ve managed these commitments the right way, you could have fifty projects, but feel like you only have five. My point is this….your focus will be compromised if you don’t understand all that you’ve committed to yourself. Furthermore, you psyche will be in a state of survival and your energy will wane considerably.

Let’s talk about what type of commitments there are.

Commitments come in multiple forms. The first that comes to mind is a commitment to someone else. “Yes, I will get you that analysis by Friday.” Or, your husband asks you to pick up Johnny from soccer on Thursday night because he has to work late. That better be in your calendar or else you’re going to be thinking about it a lot more than you think. How about a commitment to yourself? “I’m going to work out four days this week.” Are these workouts scheduled? I put mine in my calendar. There’s something about having it in writing that makes you accountable. For me, being in a business development role, many of my commitments are around client interaction and cultivating sales opportunities. They may not be things I’ve committed to anyone else on, but for me to reach my goals/targets, I know these commitments (and the actions associated with them) are crucial to my success.

There are 3 elements of managing your commitments

  • Trust
  • Time
  • Importance

Trust – You need to trust what you’ve committed to (i.e., your lists). If you don’t have trust in your lists/agreements, it’s a done deal. Nothing else matters. Sure, you may still be productive, but you won’t be optimizing your productivity.
Time – You need to allocate the appropriate time to what you’ve committed to. If you don’t have the time, don’t commit to it (either to yourself or to someone else). Is it hard? Yes. It’s tough to say no for a lot of people, including me. If you do it the right way, it’s okay. Here’s a suggestion. The next time someone asks you to take on a new project and you’re reluctant, try saying something like this: “I’d love to help, but I’m concerned that I don’t have the bandwidth right now and the end product will fall short of your expectations.”
Importance – Once you have trust in place and you have time to spend moving things forward, here’s where importance comes in. A review of your actions and/or your commitments will enable you to choose what to work on. If something’s pulling at you, pay attention to it. Is there a friend/client/colleague you’ve been meaning to call just to check in? Maybe now’s the best time to do it. It’s all about feeling okay about what you are doing, and, what you’re not doing.

So….how do you improve in this area?

Review your commitments (aka do a weekly review) – For the GTD readers, you all know the importance of this. For some reason, the consistency of the review is one of the toughest habits to form. This 24/7 world of things coming at us make it really hard to disconnect and just focus on a full review of what you need to do. Okay, so this seems basic enough, but it’s not as easy as you think. If you aren’t familiar with GTD, you still need to create a ritual of reviewing all of your work and what you’ve committed to.

Let’s take it one step further….

Review your commitments as often as you need to – It’s okay to do mini reviews when you need to. What I’m talking about is looking at your projects (i.e., your desired outcomes) and then making sure you have a next action associated with this. This simple exercise (I call it down-leveling) will do wonders for your stress-free productivity. Let’s say you have 20 different projects/outcomes on your plate. A review of these, even on a daily basis, will give you the luxury of putting whichever one’s you need to aside.

To sum it up….

Commitments, projects, outcomes; whatever you want to call them. They are the key drivers of what we do on a daily basis. Trusting what you’ve committed to, optimizing your time and knowing what really matters (importance) is what we have to think about as we evaluate our commitments.

The Pareto Principle says that 80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts we put forth. Are you allowing yourself the freedom to work in an 80/20 environment?

How do you ensure you’re managing your commitments in the most optimal way? Please share in the comments below. It will help us all.

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