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I meant to do that
We start out with the best of intentions, but life happens.
Not getting that info to the person we said we’d respond to, not completing actions on time, and otherwise dropping the ball—all of these erode people’s trust in us. We need to take steps to make sure we follow-through and do what we say we are going to do, so that our people can count on us.
But how do we actually do that?
1) Write it down. Add items to your calendar, not just for the due date, but a few days ahead, such as: “Final list to Bob by Friday” on your Monday schedule. That way events won’t sneak up on you. And, of course, get into the habit of regularly checking your calendar.
2) Make a to-do list. I also recommend “Update to-do list” as a daily item on any to-do list. Use that item as a reminder to add anything new, cross off anything completed or no longer relevant, and the PRIORITIZE the items. You might either rank-order them, or simply have three categories, such as TODAY, SOON, and AT SOME POINT. And it also gives you a quick win, since you can then mark “Update to-do list” as done—it can be your first accomplishment every morning.
3) Use your phone alarms. You can sync them to your calendar, but this isn’t always the best option, particularly if you have a busy life, as you will eventually get annoyed by all of the interruptions and start to tune out all of those alarms. I recommend setting daily (or weekday) alarms for repeating commitments and/or a morning “check your calendar” reminder. Hit snooze until you actually do the thing. When I go through my calendar in the morning, I also add one-time alarms before any scheduled calls or meetings (usually 10 minutes in advance, so I have time to grab a fresh cup of coffee), as well as for any specific items I need to get out that day. Change up the ringtones, if you find that you are starting to tune them out, and only use them for time-specific items, so you don’t have 80 alarms pinging throughout the day (that gets annoying FAST). Also, consider using the “vibrate” feature, to be considerate of people within earshot, but then make sure you keep your phone in your pocket, so you don’t miss a notification.
4) Reward the behavior in yourself you want to increase. This can be a simple feeling of satisfaction of physically crossing off each completed item on a paper to-do list. If this validates you and keeps you going, then it’s worth printing it out. I often put the day’s item on Post-Its in front of my workspace at eye-level, then get the satisfaction of crushing each completed item into a ball and shooting for a 3-pointer into the recycling bin (and, if I make the shot, I have been known to say, “Woohoo!”). Give yourself whatever validation will help you keep yourself motivated.
5) If you can’t follow-through on a commitment, apologize, and try to find a way to make it right. I hate being wrong; I hate to fail; I hate to let people down, and I hate having to apologize for any of these. If I know I have to get something done or I’ll have to apologize for letting someone down, I will move Heaven and Earth to get it done, so I won’t have to say: “Sorry I messed up.” It shows respect for other people to apologize if we let them down, and it is highly motivating for many of us to realize we have to get it done or apologize. As leaders, we can use it both ways.