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7 Ways to Always Do What You Say You’ll Do

7 Ways to Always Do What You Say You’ll Do

No one likes to admit they aren’t a superhero. I’m no exception. I’ve often agreed to “one thing too many,” only to turn around and find that pleasing everyone just wasn’t possible because of something else I’d already said I’d do. If this sounds familiar, chances are, you’ve had at least one person close to you tell you how much you disappointed them or how badly you screwed up their plans. The good news is, there really is a way to get more organized and make sure you can always keep your promises. 7 ways, to be more precise. Use these 7 ways to always do what you say you’ll do to keep your life more organized and balanced.

1) Don’t agree to or promise anything you’re not absolutely sure you can deliver.

All rights reserved by little.lions

    All rights reserved by little.lions

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    This seems simple, but it may actually be the hardest thing on this list. You agree to a favor for a friend. Then your boss nails you with a big project that has a tight deadline. Next, your spouse asks you to undertake a repair job that goes from “fifteen minutes and a screwdriver” to “four hours, no end in sight, and every single tool in the toolbox.” Finally, your college professor wants to meet with you about your performance, all in the middle of Pluming-geddon. What do you do? Some things can’t wait. We understand this. So the things that can may have to, but once you’ve agreed to it, you had better provide. You owe it to yourself and those around you.

    2) Keep a reasonable schedule.

    A reasonable schedule doesn’t mean working for 48 hours straight and then sleeping for 12. A reasonable schedule involves making time for your obligations, your family, and yourself. If you find yourself buried under a couple of big projects, or a plethora of smaller ones that threaten to interfere with that, it is time to stop and reevaluate what you’re doing.

    3) Be honest, to yourself and the people you make promises to.

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    Honest Tea Cap (Photo credit: Dome Poon)

      Honest Tea Cap (Photo credit: Dome Poon)

      “Oh, sure, that’ll be easy!” “I can do that in two shakes, no problem!” “Pffffft….of course I’m sure!” (All the while, your inner voice is screaming, “And just where are you going to find the time for all that, Chuckles?”) We all want to appear confident and capable in front of our peers, our employers, or our families. Nothing shreds that perception faster than trying to bluff about how much you can do in a day. You’ve only got 24 hours. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. You’ll get more respect by saying, “I can’t, because…” than you will by getting yourself buried in projects with no end in sight.

      4) Don’t make excuses.

      If you’ve gotten yourself in over your head, don’t make excuses or try to pass the blame off on someone else. You got yourself in too deep, and need to own this. Just be honest and let the chips fall where they may. You might be surprised at how understanding most people are, if you only give them the chance to be.

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      5) Say no to things.

      Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to the things and people that stress you out.

        Sometimes, there’s only one way to deal with someone who’s trying to add that last straw onto your back. The word “no” exists in every language on Earth for a reason, folks. If you’re about to hit that “one straw too many,” this is what the word “no” is for! It’s better to refuse something than to put your entire schedule in jeopardy and derail all the promises you’ve made because you tried to do too much.

        6) Suggest compromises or alternate suggestions.

        If you can’t drop everything to deal with something right now, maybe you can think of a compromise or the name of someone else who can do it better, faster, or who’s just less busy. Rather than a flat “no,” this is a productive alternative for showing that although you’re busy beyond any reasonable definition of sanity, you’re still willing to take time to help out. Even if it’s not in the way the other person or people hoped for, that counts for something.

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        7) Understand that you are only human, and expect the same from others.

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          I very much doubt you’re wearing an S on your chest, hail from a planet with a red sun, or have an allergy to glowing green crystals of extraterrestrial origin. While it can be tempting to try to impress the people around you by doing more by 8am than they’ll do all day, it’s not really necessary. If you have people around you who don’t seem to understand that you’re only human, it’s time to have a talk with them and explain it to them in a way that cannot be misinterpreted. If YOU don’t understand that you’re only human, you need to take a time-out and a reality check. You’re going to hurt yourself if you don’t. You’ll be more productive, healthier, and happier for it!

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          Last Updated on April 23, 2019

          How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

          How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

          Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

          While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

          For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

          While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

          I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

          Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

          Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

          Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

          The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

          Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

          What Is a Stretch Goal?

          A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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          In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

          For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

          This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

          It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

          The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

          The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

          I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

          Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

          1. Get Outside of Your Head

          If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

          If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

          I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

          Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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          2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

          When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

          I see this in so many areas of life:

          When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

          In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

          “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

          Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

          3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

          When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

          The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

          For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

          We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

          From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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          When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

          Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

          4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

          S.M.A.R.T.

          is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

          While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

          Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

          For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

          By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

          5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

          I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

          The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

          When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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          One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

          Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

          I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

          A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

          As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

          From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

          The Bottom Line

          These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

          For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

          Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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