Create Certainty for Yourself and Others – Start Saying “By When”

I just read an article about “time” in The Economist. It was in the business section, so I expected it would say something about managers setting due dates for assignments (or not) – maybe in the context of high performance or something like that.

Nope. It was about whether “long-term strategizing” or “following mega-trends” would help businesses be more competitive in the marketplace. Their conclusion was interesting: “Too much emphasis on the distant future is a waste of time.” OK, amen to that.

But, that is a 10,000-foot view of time. Admittedly, it is a valuable perspective, but I’d like to see more discussion about workplace communication at the 1000-foot level. And even the 100-foot level. I’ve had more than a few examples recently of people leaving a “time” commitment out of their interactions, such as:

  • The colleague who answers my email requests for his conference presentation materials by saying, “I got your information”;
  • The woman at the moving company who wouldn’t commit to a time for the delivery of my sister’s belongings to her new residence; and
  • The supervisor in the dining room who accepts every complaint – about food or service – with a generous smile and a promise to do something about it, though never saying “by when”.

A few of my former clients called me the “by-when-lady”, because every time they told me what they were going to do for one of our projects, I would ask, “By when?” That question always plunged them deep into their heads, where they searched for an answer. At some point they got used to thinking in terms of scheduling a due date for their work agreements with me.

I usually have to check my calendar before I can answer a “By when” question. But without knowing specific times when I will get back to them, other people are left either waiting or doing follow-up with me. Neither of those options is productive or enjoyable – and a little of our energy leaks away every time either one of us thinks about that unfinished business. Better to pick a time, enter it into the schedule, and make it happen.

The challenge is this: are we willing to be responsible for supporting other people in being productive too? Or do we leave them waiting, and having to follow up with us?  People do appreciate certainty in their lives, at work and elsewhere.  If we can give them that simply by including a “by when”, a date-and-time, we are granting them a little more peace of mind than they would have had without it. In these uncertain times, that is a lovely gift.

Personal productivity or accomplishment depends on the agreements we make with others. An agreement always has three ingredients: What are we going to produce + When will we deliver it + Why does it matter. If we leave out that middle one, we don’t have an agreement. Hope is good, but a promise for delivery is gold.

2 replies
  1. Simi Valley
    Simi Valley says:

    Creating the life you want and dealing with uncertainty is not an overnight event. It’s in the little things. It’s having a vision. It’s making it compelling. It’s seeing it and feeling it with absolute emotion. It’s caring about other people. It’s calling to say “I love you” for no reason. It’s about taking every opportunity to connect. To be playful. To honor and cherish your loved ones.

    Reply
    • Laurie Ford
      Laurie Ford says:

      You may have missed the point of that blogpost on “Create Certainty for Yourself and Others”. It is NOT about creating the life you want. And it is NOT about “dealing with uncertainty” either. It is about CREATING CERTAINTY for yourself and others. It is not about “feeling” or “emotion” – not at all. It could be seen as caring about other people, though, if by that you mean having enough respect for them to create certainty for them, and to keep your word with them. It’s not about saying “I love you” – it’s about saying, “I will get this to you by 7:00 PM on Thursday.” And then doing it. So they know what to expect, and are not left in uncertainty. I don’t do blogposts about honoring and cherishing my loved ones – I write about being productive, effective and honest. But maybe you already knew that. Have a great weekend!

      Reply

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