Think of these situations:

  1. You are on phone with your client, and you tell them that you will send the required details ASAP.
  2. You send an email accepting a speaking assignment which is a month away.
  3. While you are in the shower you get a wonderful idea of promoting your business.
  4. You attend a day-long seminar and make copious notes of how you could leverage those ideas during the session.
  5. A very important person to you in your network casually reveals his date of marriage anniversary.
  6. Your daughter tells you that she will soon run out of her prescription vitamin supplement.
  7. Your mentor tells you to read that great article that would solve one of your problems.
  8. You like an article posted on LinkedIn, by one of your friends and decide to read it later.

What is the common thread across them? There is an explicit or implicit commitment on your behalf in each of them. Some are in written form, some are oral and some are just thoughts. Leaving them in those forms is as risky as driving your car without insurance – you are just over-relying on your luck and your skills.

Let’s understand first what is the risk involved here. You play several roles in your personal and professional life and always want to do justice to each of them. By virtue of it, you are continuously bombarded with expectations from everyone around you and also from yourself. In an ideal world, you would remember all and take appropriate actions at the right time. But the reality is far from it.

When you just rely on your memory (short-term memory) for your commitments, you will soon start missing a few as your short-term memory can store only a little.

So what is the insurance that you need to avoid your loss? A single version of the truth – just one to-do list to record and refer to. Agreed that it is half the battle with the other half being a meticulous and frequent review of it to complete the actions. But what are the odds that you will have any chance of doing them if you don’t even remember them?

We need to start looking at all our sources of work differently. Look at them as commitment machines. As they generate commitments for you, collect them and put them outside your head. This becomes the first and critical step if you want to be proactive in completing them on time.

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