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The “Yes… Damn!” Effect: What Was I Thinking???

strange and wonderful
Creative Commons License photo credit: Random McRandomhead
Have you ever agreed to do something out in the future and when the time came, regretted it?

Warning:  Dates in Calendar are closer than they appear.

— Unknown

I’m looking at this week’s calendar and wondering — What was I thinking when I put THAT on my calendar??? It seemed like a good idea at the time.  But today I realize that my week is full-up and my earlier “Yes” has morphed into “Damn! Why’d I do that???”  And of course, now it’s too late, yet somehow I must make good on my promise to do whatever it is I said I’d do.  Sound familiar?  Do you do that too?

Why is it easier to agree to do something at a future date?

Well, Gal Zauberman of the Wharton School researched that question and he concluded (Paraphrased from his Arming the Donkeys podcast):

Our day is filled with little, tiny tasks that are never the same… so when we look to the future, we don’t take those tiny variables into account… we see the future as clear and free and flexible… and because we think we’ll have more free time in the future than now, we mis-estimate our ability to complete the task later on.

It’s as simple as that – we somehow feel that, out in the future, our days will have “nothing happening.”  But, as Zauberman points out:

…in reality, there’s no reason to believe “Tuesday-in-a-month” will be any free-er than Tuesday-today.

Time to Consider a Change

How do we get better at scheduling?  How do we improve our skill at picking and choosing the right commitments?  How do we get comfortable with saying “no” when needs be?  Zauberman recommends (again paraphrased from his Arming the Donkeys podcast):

Simulate that future date as if it’s really happening tomorrow.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Could I do it tomorrow?
  • Is it worth clearing my schedule for tomorrow?
  • And, if so, is it worth doing?

Although saying “no” is not an easy or socially accepted thing to do, IF you answer “no” to those three questions, perhaps it’s better to say “no” than to say “yes”.

So for now, let’s swear off the “Yes… Damn Effect” by politely turning down the projects we can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do, and then focus our energy on those tasks that are important to our well being.

Why? Because, when I do a reality check, the only time I’ve ever had a completely blank calendar was right after I bought it… and then it was only ’cuz my previous commitments hadn’t been transcribed yet.  And because, as the world turns, we’ve all learned – sometimes the hard way – that the far-away-tomorrow is sooner than you think – OMG, it’s TODAY!

Have you ever agreed to do something out in the future and when the time came, regretted it?

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