Undercommit and overdeliver

By johannatime On November 22, 2014 Under Quality of Life and Work

Things are good when you expected less, things are bad when you expected more. The expected result will not be noticed. This post is about management of expectations. When you expect others to expect lots from you, you are setting yourself up for overwhelm and stress. Being productive is about getting the tasks done you committed yourself to. Let’s dive in.

A commitment is often an overcommitment

People tend to underestimate the amount of work that is involved in completing a task. It is too easy to say yes to a request, not in the first place to please the asker, and than realise later that you should have negotiated a little better, or just have said ‘no’. Keep in mind, it looks better to say ‘no’, than to say ‘yes’ and do ‘no’. What I mean to say is that the opposite, overcommitting and underdelivering, is bad for your reputation. And when you overcommit, you will most certainly underdeliver, or you will compromise your physical and mental health.

Undercommitting is not so bad

To undercommit is just explicitly promising something mediocre, knowing that technically, you can do (lots) better, but just not mentioning that. Keep in mind that your result will be evaluated against an expectiation. An undercommitment has lots of benefits, too:

  • Any commitment that can be kept is a win for everyone involved.
  • Nobody will notice it is an undercommitment in the first place.
  • An undercommitment takes the stress out of it all because it will be easy to accomplish.

Overdelivery will be noticed!

As I mentioned above, it is hard to notice an expected result. An undercommitment enables you to overdeliver:

  • So do what you promised to do, plus a little extra. Whoever you are serving will notice that.
  • If things get busy and you can’t overdeliver, just deliver and at least nobody will be disappointed.
  • If your client or boss is happy, so are you.

In a competitive world, it takes a bit of humility to undercommit. In the long run however, you will outshine whatever competition there is with this humble strategy. Please let me know what you think, and share if your clients and boss were happy in the comments below:

Johanna Jansen


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