By Sharine Sample

In the workplace today, keeping track of deadlines and projects that you owe your colleagues sometimes can feel like a full-time job all by itself. Nowadays you are more likely to be working as part of a team instead of on your own. Thanks to increased use of virtual meetings and remote work, your team might not even be in the same state, let alone the same building.

These innovations in how we work have their advantages. However, with more collaboration comes the need for more coordination – who is doing what, when those tasks are due, etc. Coordination can be mentally exhausting. You may feel like those demands have taken up your entire day, leaving you no time to complete your actual job duties.

Today, people rely on each other more than ever to do their jobs. Every time you say, “Sure, I’ll get that to you today,” you’re making a commitment to your colleague. When we do not follow through on those commitments, it creates a domino effect: because you did not provide your co-worker what they needed, now they are behind on a commitment to someone else.

Les Brown, one of the world’s leading motivational speakers, says, “Honor your commitments with integrity.” I like this quotation because it reminds us that honoring commitments is about more than completing projects or checking items off your to-do list.

When you follow through on your commitments, it builds positive rapport and trust among your team. It also shines light on your character. Whether you are frontline staff or in a leadership role, people need to be able to rely on you. Remember the old saying: “People are only as good as their word.”

Here are a few ways to start creating good habits that will help you honor commitments:

  • Know your limits. Don’t over-commit yourself. Watch out for double-booking – we can’t be in two places at once no matter how hard we try. Your co-workers and employees will have more respect if you choose one thing and commit fully, instead of halfway doing too much. Don’t forget to hold time in your schedule for working on your own tasks. Remember, your time is as valuable as anyone else’s.
  • It’s okay to decline. If you’re asked to go to a meeting or help with a project, but you already have a full plate, prioritize what is more important – think about what aligns with your work duties and goals. Ask if a teammate or even your supervisor can sit in for you.
  • Be prepared. Whatever you commit to – be prepared. Even if you’re not the one leading the project, you still have an important role. Know your role and others’ roles. That way, you’ll know what’s going on and understand how everyone contributes. If you don’t take the time to prepare, you risk looking unprofessional. Worse, you communicate to your team that their needs are not important.
  • View your calendar daily throughout the week. Know what is ahead of you – not just where you need to be each day and time, but what you need to prepare in advance. It’s a lot easier to honor your commitments when you’re organized.

Building these habits takes time, but in the long run you’ll save time and feel a greater sense of control over your day. So, while keeping track of the commitments you’ve made can be draining, it is rewarding and worthwhile. When in doubt, think about the impact your actions can have on others. Remember the domino effect that I mentioned earlier?

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, puts it into easy, relatable terms: “The Domino Effect is not merely a phenomenon that happens to you, but something you can create. It is within your power to spark a chain reaction of good habits by building new behaviors that naturally lead to the next successful action.”

You can create a domino effect with positive habits, or negative habits. We’re human, and all our behaviors are intertwined and connected, for better or worse. Honoring your commitments means considering others’ feelings above your own. At work and in life, it is the ethical and professional thing to do.

Sharine Sample is the Regional Workforce Development Manager at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina.

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