Updated: Jun 11, 2019
I like the word commitment. It leaves no room for misinterpretation, the margin for error, or a “we’ll see” mentality.
But how committed are you to your commitments?
Some time ago I noticed an astonishing thing – well, it was astonishing to me in any case. I noticed that if I wrote something on my “to-do list” there was a 75% chance I might do it. But if I entered something in my online calendar my success rate was pretty well 99.999%. I found this curious. Could there really be that much difference between writing on a to-do list or entering in your calendar?
Consider these different levels of commitment:
I realised that my approach to my to-do list is to scoop as much out of it as possible, accepting that there will always be some kind of residue left over – stuff I didn’t get to, or really don’t feel like getting on with. But facing those items again the next day was somehow depressing.
On the other hand, my approach to my calendar is that it was a schedule telling me what I was truly committed to, things such as meetings with clients, keynotes at an appointed time, and generally places that I had to be where if I failed to show up, I would be letting someone down.
The differences between your to-do list and your calendar.
It occurred to me that there were 2 key differences between the to-do list and the calendar:
How interesting it is that if we say will meet a person at 3 pm, will be there at 3 pm, but if we say will do something for ourselves – even something fun – we somehow find a way to roll on that commitment.
I wondered what would happen if I wrote down my every move in my calendar. At first, I resisted it for 3 reasons:
1. Loss of freedom
Somehow I thought that would be constraining, and I realized that at some level I wanted to keep my options open.
I could put in my calendar “write a proposal at 9 am on Monday morning”, but what if when Monday morning came around and I didn’t feel like it? What if I wanted to do something else? I wrestled with this for a little while, because in my mind the entire point of working for yourself is the flexibility to do what you want.
-> Well, that’s true up to a point. But the bottom line is you know what you should be doing to get the success that you want (in whatever way you measure that – time, money, quality of life). So why not say you’re going to do it – and then actually do it? (I know, radical right?!) Instead, we say we’re gonna do stuff and then we resist it - and when we roll on our word we experience ourselves as a smaller version of ourselves. The worst part of all of this is that because we are creatures of habit, procrastinate once or twice and you are then in the habit of being a procrastinator.
Nothing is more time-consuming and exhausting for the human spirit than procrastinating.
2. Extra work
Another reason I resisted putting everything in my calendar was that it seemed like more work to start scheduling things that I was probably going to do anyway. And in that thought was the problem – things I am “probably” going to do, but to which I am not fully committed. Getting through your to-do list is all about your level of commitment. When you get serious about scheduling your commitments, you get a new-found appreciation for how long tasks really take you. Are you really going to get that proposal done in 30 minutes or is that completely unreasonable?
-> One great way to realise how unrealistic you are about what you can get through in a day is to write your entire to-do list and then put approximate completion times next to each one. You will quickly see that what’s on your to-do list simply cannot be done in a day. Isn’t it better to know that upfront?
3. A packed calendar
When I started doing this, I really didn’t like to see all the scraps of time scheduled with only a few small pockets left in between. Then I got good at scheduling unscheduled time – I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but one of the real breakthroughs in this is that I realized that I really didn’t have enough time when I wasn’t working, thinking about working, or worrying that I wasn’t working. By being truly committed to my calendar gave me the ultimate freedom.
Because then when I’m working I’m working, and when I’m free I’m free.
Try it for a week and let me know how you get on.
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