professional development, Startup Advice

Big plans, but poor execution? How to stay on top of the promises you make

Martin Kovacs /

There are many reasons as to why plans may go awry, however putting in the preparatory hard yards will go some way to ensuring positive momentum and providing a buffer against unexpected events.

As Minda Zetlin, co-author of The Geek Gap, writes at Inc., grand ambitions can often become derailed, with the reality failing to match expectations.

“But maybe there’s a way to escape the repeating cycle of big plans followed by bitter disappointment in your own inability to carry them out,” Zetlin writes.

Drawing on advice from executive coach and author Wendy Capland, Zetlin outlines “a simple exercise” that has provided her a whole new perspective on her goals and how she performs them.

Promises, promises, promises

Firstly, Zetlin recommends making a list of the promises you’ve made (including to yourself), in work to family life. This which could range from meeting work deadlines to exercising more regularly.

The next step is to assign a type to each promise.

This effectively ranks promises from “trustworthy” promises that will be kept at all costs, to “heroic” promises that will require a lot of effort to follow through on, “fantasy” promises that you should keep but probably never will, and “criminal” promises that you know you will never keep.

Subsequently ranking these promises as either an A, B or C-level priority will shed further light on how you make promises. For instance, are most of your trustworthy promises of A-level importance?

It’s time to evaluate and stop fretting

Are you overextending, and, if so, what would you change?

Looking back over your list, it may well be that you wouldn’t remove any of the promises that you’ve made, and it could be that you instead need to change your attitude.

“Some things get done as planned,” Zetlin writes. “Others get put off to some other time, or maybe never. That’s life, and it’s OK, so long as you don’t make things worse by torturing yourself over whatever you didn’t get done.”

Revisiting her own promises, Zetlin says that while she hadn’t completed everything she had set out to do, she had, regardless of whether she scolded herself for lack of action or not, made progress on every promise.

While Zetlin notes that human beings “are hard-wired to look at the negative side of things”, when it comes to grand plans it may well be time to stop fretting and focus on the positives.

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Martin Kovacs

Martin Kovacs is a journalist with experience covering the IT, consumer electronics, retail, finance and energy sectors.

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