What you actually do matters much more than what you say you’re going to do. Anyone can talk a big game or over-promise, but the actual follow-through is what creates lasting success.
For the last 15 years, part of my unique selling proposition is that I do what I say I’m going to do for the people who hire me. When I tell someone I’m going to do something, I do it (in the amount of time I say it’s going to take). Sometimes I do more, but never less.
Following through is much harder than it might seem, and that’s why people often fall short. Here’s how I make sure that I do what I say.
Never agree to or promise anything unless you are 100% sure you can do it
Saying “yes” is a contract. From telling someone you’ll call them for lunch next week to saying you’ll have a project finished in 3 days, anytime you agree to something, you’re asking someone to trust that you’ll do it.
Say “yes” only to things you are sure about — sure that you’ll make them happen and sure that it’s something you want to do. Half-assing something or not finishing a task is far worse than saying “no” upfront. Commit with complete conviction or don’t commit at all.
Telling someone upfront that you can’t or aren’t interested in doing something re-affirms your commitment to your current schedule and tasks. Saying “no” means you not only respect yourself; you respect the other person, because you can’t guarantee to finish or commit to what they want.
Have a schedule
Anytime you say “yes” to something, put it in your calendar and set a reminder (or several). These reminders could involve anything from completing part of a client project on a certain day, to making an agreement with yourself to work out twice a week. Own your tasks to ensure they get done.
And remember that most things will take longer than you expect, so account for setbacks, other commitments and the fact that sometimes life in general will throw you off-course.
Don’t make excuses
Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. From car accidents to computer crashes to family issues, life is unexpected. You can’t account for everything when you make a commitment, so if something forces you to break your promise, own it—even if it’s not your fault.Don’t make excuses, just offer to make things right.
The truth isn’t always the nicest answer. It might not be what someone wants to hear. But if you’re not rude about it, in the long run, everyone is better off. Telling the truth makes life easier and much more productive. This especially includes being honest with yourself.
Sometimes the most unreasonable expectations are ones we put on ourselves.
Being “impeccable with your word” (via Don Miguel Ruiz) means you are being honest with others, and more importantly, with yourself. This is truly the secret to success and the most important thing I’ve learned in my life. You instantly become “that guy/gal” who people want to work with or have on their team. It may require you to think more carefully about your commitments, but in the long run, being honest makes you a trustworthy person who is valuable in just about every situation.
This post originally appeared on Expert Enough.
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