Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
#7 Honor Commitments. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. If a commitment can’t be fulfilled, notify others early and agree upon a new commitment to be honored.
I chose this principle because my life used to be completely out of balance on this. Of course I showed up for depositions, court hearings and office meetings. How can you be in the legal field and not meet procedural deadlines or attend firm meetings? I do know people that don’t show up for their work commitments, but they either have a lousy reputation in the legal field or they don’t last long at their job, or both.
What I had trouble with was saying “yes” to meeting someone after work and then running out of time because there was more work to do. Or being too tired and changing my mind about doing the thing that I agreed to do in the first place. Does this sound familiar? You call the person, you make your voice sound all raspy and you say, “I think I’m coming down with the flu. I really don’t want you to catch what I’ve got. Can we reschedule?”
More troubling than that was the commitment I would make to myself to “get more exercise” or “eat better” and then grab fast food because it was easier than going to the grocery store. Or resolving to get more sleep, but then start watching an old movie at night and end up with the TV still on at midnight, even though there wasn’t anything on that was worth watching.
The hard part required sitting down and really, really thinking about what is important to me. But once I did that, then the decisions about what commitments to make in the first place started to get easier.How to resolve this? I read Steven Covey’s book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. He describes four categories of how we spend our time, “Urgent and Important”, “Urgent and Not Important”, “Not Urgent and Important” and “Not Urgent and Not Important”. Managing your time, and therefore your commitments, is a matter of determining what is important.
Urgent and Important
Most of what we do here at Jaburg Wilk is both urgent and important, so this category is fairly easy. When my parents’ got older and their health was deteriorating, I had to make relocating them from rural NM to Albuquerque a priority. Fortunately, that’s done, and now I don’t have to worry about them as much. It isn’t too hard for me to keep commitments that are in this category and it probably isn’t hard for others to do either.
Urgent and Not Important
Covey says that activities in this category can be eliminated or at least trimmed down. This is harder. The phone is ringing. A ping notifies us of a new email (I just got one on my iPhone, and I admit that I looked at it but didn’t open it). This is where prioritizing comes in. It requires discipline to ignore those urgent interruptions that are not important. But working on this area can free up time to concentrate on those things that are not urgent but that we have decided are important. Then I can focus on honoring my real commitments and not just the expectation of others that I be instantly available.
Not Urgent and Important
Covey’s book says that this is the category where we should make those commitments to family, friends and ourselves that will make our life better. For example, I wasn’t very good about calling my mother, because much of the time I either got too busy or I dreaded talking to her. But I started making a commitment to call her every Sunday at 9:00 a.m. without fail, even if I don’t want to. We talk for an hour whether we have anything to say to each other or not. She no longer complains that I never call her and I feel like I’m being the daughter I want to be. Honoring that commitment has become a habit that I feel good about.
How about the most difficult of all commitments, the ones we owe ourselves? Steven Covey calls it “sharpening the saw” and gives the example of not being able to cut wood very well with a dull saw. Sometimes I have to trick myself into taking better care of myself. I have a dog even though I live in a townhouse that has no yard. She has to be walked twice a day whether I feel like exercising or not. Walking the dog is now important, where going for a walk by myself was not, and there is even some urgency about it because, after all, she can’t wait forever to go outside.
Not Urgent and Not Important
By eliminating these activities from my life, which were mostly bad habits, I have made more time to honor my commitments to myself. I don’t watch much television. I have to admit that I rarely agree to social events that I don’t want to do. I am learning to say “no” to invitations to do things that aren’t high on my priority list. But if I tell someone I am going to do something, then I do it even if I change my mind about wanting to at the last minute. When I have made the commitment, honoring it becomes both urgent and important.
So what commitment to yourself are you going to honor this week?