Honoring Commitments: Managing Effectively

Honoring Your Commitments Requires Managing Your Commitments

To honor your commitments, it’s essential that you get good at effectively managing your commitments. So, what do we mean by managing your commitments? Well, first off, being aware of those commitments that you’ve made and those commitments that others have made to you. Then, it’s also knowing when the next action needs to take place so that commitment can be fulfilled. When do I need to reach out and support somebody that’s made a commitment to me? When do I need to take some action to make sure that the commitments I’ve made actually occur? What is the status of these commitments? So that if I’m effectively managing them, I will know immediately when one of those commitments is in danger. And if I’ve made a commitment to someone and my relationship is shifted from it will happen to something else, then I know when that occurs, and I can reach out and connect with the person that I made that commitment to so that we can now effectively deal with this situation. If I’m not effectively managing my commitments, I may even miss that a commitment hasn’t been kept, fail to follow up on someone that’s made a commitment to me, fail to acknowledge that they haven’t kept the commitment. So, being good at effectively managing them is essential to being able to actually honor our commitment. 

Memory Isn’t a Good Tool for Managing Commitments

So, how do we go about doing this? Well, some people use memory. Memory doesn’t work too well, especially when things start piling up on your plate. It starts to roll, fall over the edges, you start missing commitments, you start forgetting about commitments, overlooking commitments–not a very good, effective way. Plus, memory, as the researchers have demonstrated, is actually a creative function. So, every time you access your memory, you’re ever so slightly tweaking that memory–sometimes a little more than ever so slightly, depending upon how the world is occurring to you now, today. So, they’ve also demonstrated that your level of confidence or certainty about the memory does not correlate with the accuracy of the memory. So, when you’re absolutely certain that is the commitment that I made that might not really be the case. So,memory isn’t a very good place to store your commitments. Plus, when you attempt to do that, it puts stress into your system, even if you’re not fully aware of it. Your subconscious is processing Where’s this commitment? Where’s that? Did something disappear? It puts a tension in it. When you actually have a commitment management system, and you put your commitments into a system, then you’ll feel a certain relaxation, a release of a certain level of stress by doing that. So, we recommend that if you are really serious, committed to honoring your commitments, that you establish a commitment management system and use your commitment management system. 

A Commitment Management System

So, what is a commitment management system made of? Well, it’s two things–a tool and a process. And the tool can be simple, and in fact, we encourage you to keep your tool as simple as possible and workable, functionable. So, what do we call a tool? Well, it could be simply a piece of paper or a document in your computer that lists all the commitments that have made been made by you and to you. With each listing, you would want to have the name of the person that you made the commitment to or the name of the person that made the commitment to you, what it is–sometimes what that commitment is, sometimes a linkage, a reference, to where other documents are that more clearly state what it is–and by when that commitment is due. And one other thing, when is the date of your next action for that commitment. So, with this simple recording of your commitment, it can really help you elevate your effectiveness, and then you’ll be doing that with all your other commitments. 

Tools for Your Commitment Management System

Now, for many of us, a simple piece of paper isn’t very effective–or a list in the computer. It becomes too hard to manage because we’ve got too many commitments, and going through all of them every day just isn’t that isn’t a good use of time. So, then you’d want to elevate to just a little more complexity. Say something as simple as Apple reminders. There, you’d list just as we’ve said before, and the date for the next action would be where the reminder would come up. And then every day, I’d have the list right in front of me of the actions that need to be taken to fulfill on my commitments. So, you could also use something like–Microsoft has some great tools. There’s all kinds of other tools around. Usually, they’re called time management tools, just tweaked from this perspective to be tracking the commitments that you’ve made and others made to you. Again, I encourage you to keep it simple. There are tools out there that have all kinds of bells and whistles. The problem is the more complex it is–the more bells and whistles–the less likely you are to keep using your tool and keep maintaining your tool. So, keep it simple. Only take the next level of complexity once you’ve got this one mastered and only if it’s needed. 

A Process for Your Commitment Management System

Now, the other thing you need is a process, and the process will be made up of a small set of practices. The first practice is how do you get this commitment into your tool? So, what’s your practice about doing that? Now, it’s nice if you can do it and list whenever a commitment’s made right directly into your tool, but often that’s not going to work. People aren’t willing to wait around for you to do that, or it just doesn’t fit in the moment. Sometimes, people carry a card around, and they write down the commitment. Or, I know people use a journal, and say, they will keep journals of all their meetings. And then, they have a practice that every time a commitment is made they mark that out in some really bold way so it clearly sticks out. Now, by the way, a journal’s not a good tool because accessing what action I take today by whipping through all these pages to try and find it–that’s not too effective. So, then I have the practice of getting these commitments out of my journal into my tool. Possibly, at the end of every day, I sit down with my journal and I move my commitments into my tool.

Daily Reviews

So, that’s the first practice or set of practices–what’s required to get the commitments into my tool. The second is a daily practice for reviewing my commitments, or more specifically, the actions that are required for me to take or that I have called out I’m going to take this day to fulfill my commitment. So, you need to set a time when you do this. That could be, for many people, it’s going to be first thing in the morning. I sit down, I look at my list of actions due today to fulfill on my commitments, and then I look at how I’m going to put them into my day, and off I go. Some people like to do that the night before, but a daily review of your commitments, and the actions needed, is essential. Then, at least for most people, maybe you can get by with every other day. Whatever, but it’s what’s going to work for you so that you’re effective. 

A Broader View

Now, the next one is your broader–one or two practices–about a broader view of your commitment. So, that could be like every week at a certain time, I review all my commitments for the next week, or for many people, it’s the next two weeks and the actions I’m taking–so that I get a feel for what’s going on in these two weeks that I need to be doing to fulfill on my commitments. Again, that time range you need to look to see what’s relevant for your situation. I also invite one more practice in this larger view. And, that’s where you take an even larger view of your practice. So, that usually would be a once a month thing. So, once a month, I look out and see, in a broader way, what are the commitments I have, what are the actions that are needed, what’s going to need to happen to fulfill on these commitments. And, so whether that is a monthly view a two-month view, six months, or longer–that’ll depend upon your job and what’s meaningful and relevant to you. But taking this daily view, taking this weekly view, and then taking this longer view–having those practices–will give you a very robust commitment management system, very simply. You may come to find there are other practices that you want to put in place as you move along, and you learn to use your system, and you find Oh, a breakdown happened here. I need to put a practice in place so it makes it harder for that breakdown to happen. It makes it harder for me not to fulfill or honor my commitments. So, using your commitment management system is going to be a function of practicing using it, learning from it, putting that into practice, and keeping going with your practice. 

If Your System Gets Knocked Out, Keep Practicing

Here’s the important tip on keeping going with your practice: Your practice of using your system will get knocked out. You know, maybe every day, you have an 8 AM check in on what your actions are for the day. Something happens–you cannot do that that day–and now you’ve lost your momentum, and you missed the next day. The key is how quickly can you notice you’ve slipped from your practices, from your process and then start again? If you can get good at recognizing when you’ve slipped, when you stopped using your system, and then start–just start, don’t get beat yourself up about it, don’t make a big story about it. What really counts, it’s starting again. If you’re strong, it’s starting again. Wow, you’ll be good at keeping your commitment management system in practice and keep it in practice and using your commitment management system and getting better and better at learning how to use it more effectively–will be a fundamental support to you honoring your commitments.


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