In my year-end cleanup of Stuff and Promises, I have been getting rid of stuff (Goodwill, Salvation Army, food bank, etc.) and closing out promises made. The stuff is easier to clean up than promises, because promises disappear unless they are recorded somewhere. But really, all I have to do to find broken promises is skim through my Outlook contacts, or my Facebook friends, or my LinkedIn connections. I can find Unfinished Business by just looking at a name and feeling that twinge: Oh, yeah, we were going to do that thing, or Oops, he never sent the document and I didn’t follow up.
I have done a communication course or two in my time (thanks, Werner), and was always fascinated by one unique attribute of conversations: they disappear. Unless we make a point of capturing our requests and promises – in some display that keeps them alive for us and “in existence” (not in our heads) – they will dissolve, often within minutes of being spoken.
That “existence” piece is hardest for me. I grew up thinking if it’s on a list, well, that should handle it. But it doesn’t. Unless the list includes something about time – like when the action will happen. And the person or people involved – like whoever else needs to be included or should know about this. And maybe add a location – like whether the action will be in my office, over coffee, or overseas. I don’t make a list that looks like this:
- Request confirmation on presentation plans from Darryl in 3:30 meeting at Stauf’s coffee shop;
- Review promise for training schedule with LEAN Team by email on Tuesday morning;
- Complete and send promised report to Sharon in office on Thursday.
Worse, I don’t always put those details in my calendar. My schedule says:
- Monday – 3:30, Stauf’s, Darryl
- Tuesday – LEAN Team schedule
- Thursday – Sharon’s report
As a result, I risk forgetting certain elements of the request or promise, and not getting whatever it was I wanted to accomplish. Sometimes it means an extra item on my year-end Oops List too.
I’m scheduling an upgrade for 2015: I am now putting my commitments – personal objectives, requests, and promises – into existence in a way that I “have” them alive in front of me every day, instead of trusting that I will remember to “do” them. This is an upgrade of work habits too: I am beginning to build a habit of looking at my (newly upgraded) list of commitments every evening and every morning, and adjusting my schedule as needed to accommodate them.
Conversations disappear. Commitment displays will keep them in existence. I’ll let you know what I learn.