The world doesn’t actually care if you do the things on your calendar.
It’ll keep spinning either way.
In fact, in many ways it would prefer that you just didn’t.
For, every time you do – the world changes a little bit. ‘Doing’ starts an chain reaction of cause and effect unsettling the natural course of things – entropy.
There are consequences to inaction. If you don’t pay your rent or mortgage for long enough – eventually you’ll lose the roof over your head. Stop improving the relationship with your spouse and eventually you won’t have one. Stop filling up the gas tank in your car – and eventually you’re stuck.
These are hyperbolic examples, yet their lesson can be applied to both smaller more banal tasks as well as your most meaningful projects.
If you don’t work on them – there’s very little immediate downside. Long-term? That’s a completely different question. But, short term – likely nothing.
Right now, admit to yourself that there will be commitments you made, commitments that are clearly identified, well estimated, perfectly aligned with your energy that you simply don’t do.
Instead, you end up running errands, talking with co-workers, taking an extra-long shower, cleaning your office, resolving some completely unexpected emergency, or attempting to capturing some unexpected opportunity. Or you’re simply binge-watching ‘Nailed It’ on Netflix.
So, what do we do now that we we’ve admitted we’re not doing the thing we committed to?
First stop and take a breath.
Next consider why you didn’t.
What about the activity wasn’t compelling to you enough to simply start at the designated time? Most likely, it was an activity you weren’t fully committed to, that you didn’t fully see the outcome of the activity fulfilling one of your most meaningful goals.
In short, it’s a commitment you made for someone else – not for yourself. And because it wasn’t for you – anything, absolutely anything was more fulfilling and more significant than this thing you scheduled.
So, why did it end up on your calendar in the first place? At what point in the history of the commitment could you have made a different answer – said ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes’, delegated it, resolved it in the moment – to prevent it from ever being scheduled in the first place?
Think of that moment, visualize it like it’s happening again. Feel yourself agreeing to the commitment. As you do, ask, “What negative outcome am I trying to avoid by saying ‘Yes’?” followed by “What part of my identity is afraid of this activity?” (For it’s your identity that kept you from starting in this moment).
Once you have these answers, you’ll know which of the following actions to take:
1. Delete the activity off your calendar and completely forget about it. That’s right, you’re obviously not excited about this activity enough to start – so, say ‘No’ to it now and forever. Just delete it, write in what you did instead – and continue on with your day. If it likely will return, take a moment and determine who you’ll delegate it to. This is ‘When as a trigger’ that Patrick and I talk about in ‘The Power of When’ – When this task returns – I’ll delegate it to John.
- Reschedule it. If upon revisiting the significance behind the task and your reasons for not starting it this time you realize that this is still of value, your punishment is to reschedule it. This punishment is felt three ways; going through the next two weeks and finding a spot for this activity you didn’t do the first time, re-evaluating and rescheduling all the other commitments in its way, and running the risk of blowing it off a second time.
- Do it with whatever amount of time remains.Yea, rescheduling it is a horrible option – you’re moving a bunch of other commitments around to squeeze in one you obviously don’t want to do in the first place. So, rather than have Future You pissed at you (again!) take this time, whatever remains, and crank it out. Complete as much of it as you can, knowing that this is all the time you have, whatever value you can create in the next 14 minutes – that’s what this commitment gets. This stress, urgency, panic, is the price you paid for committing to something you shouldn’t have. Wherever you land when time is up that’s where you land. If by some miracle you complete it – you are not the hero. You are the villain – you took a commitment you shouldn’t have, you added greater stress to your life, and you crowded out something else that far more meaningful and significant, while delivering a low quality outcome.
Rescheduling the commitment is the worst of three options.
The easiest option is to simply admit the commitment wasn’t actually significant in the first place and delete it from your calendar.
“Rescheduling kicks off a chain reaction of comparing all the upcoming commitments by their significance, energy, and time to find the next best date & time for a commitment that obviously wasn’t the most significant thing when it came around the first time.”
Which means the rescheduled thing is never the most important thing. Why would it be? To add to the problem, the commitment has already been canceled, forgotten, or ignored once, so the chances of it being canceled, forgotten, or ignored a second time are more than double. Then there’s the issue of ensuring everyone has the new meeting details.
Don’t reschedule without adjusting the nature of the appointment to be aligned with the level significance for everyone involved.
This can be done two ways:
- increasing the significance (stronger positive outcomes, greater risk minimization) of the effort
- decreasing the resolution of the meeting. For example, if the initial meeting was a 60 minute face-to-face, propose a 20-minute phone call. If it was a phone call, propose addressing the entire issue via email, or suggest request an introduction to someone in a better position to fulfill this commitment.
Both of these methods of changing the effort’s nature transform it into a new substantially different thing. So it’s not a reschedule – it’s a more accurately-sized commitment that can be better judged against the rest of your scheduled commitments in terms of significance, energy, and time.
Of course, this assumes the change in nature still passes the significance threshold for you and your collaborators. It could be that you’re secretly relieved the effort isn’t important. In which case – delete it happily and ignore the reschedule request and determine how you’re going to maximize this newly found time.
All of this leads us back to where we started: Don’t Reschedule; Cancel or Commit