Under Promise & Over Deliver

Do you do this or are you typically the other way around?

I am definitely the other way around.  I tend to over promise and under deliver, especially to myself in relation to my own high expectations.

There is that famous quote that goes something like:

“People overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year.”  

(attributed to various people, including Bill Gates and Tony Robbins)

Yep, that’s me!

Two full weeks in to the New Year and already I am feeling swamped, overwhelmed and incredibly reactive rather than proactive when it comes to the items on my to do list.  The wonderful, complete switch off that I had over Christmas seems like a dim and distant memory now… and I am exhausted!

Anyone else or just me?

This week, in the midst of my growing overwhelm and anxiety, I reflected on what could be causing this.  How have I ended up here, again?  What am I doing, or not doing, that is putting me in this place?

It was as I looked, in despair and frustration, at my daily to do lists that the realisation hit me – like a brick!

I over promise and under deliver to myself on what I believe I can achieve each day!


Looking at my lists through thoughtful eyes, I realised they were laughable in their unrealistic expectations.  The list for Monday alone would be a struggle to achieve in five days, let alone one!

Why is this realisation so important and why am I sharing it with you?

If you are like me and you do this too, it matters because of how it makes you feel each day and the fact that those feelings are compounded so that by the end of the week, you feel like crap!

Let me explain.

I plan my week out on a Sunday evening, listing all the meetings and appointments for each day and then adding the variety of tasks that need attending to that coming week onto each day in order of importance (as I perceive them).  I often feel relieved at the end of that exercise as I have emptied my head of all that I believe I need to get done in the week ahead.  Phew!

By the end of Monday evening however, because I have over promised to myself, I finish the day deflated as there are several outstanding items on my list.  My focus is on all the things I didn’t get done instead of praising myself for all the things I did complete.  

Tuesday begins with a sense of trepidation as I am already ‘behind’ on my expectations of what I can and need to achieve this week.  The game is on!  I work even harder and longer and yet, Tuesday ends in a similar way to Monday, because I over promised to myself on that list also.  Now I have two incomplete lists to feel great about… not!

The rest of the week carries on in this vein so by Friday, I am in a state of mild panic because I know next week brings a whole new list of meetings, appointments, tasks and I have not even finished this week – EEK!

So, guess what happens?  I work over the weekend and consequently get to Sunday night exhausted and stressed out, as I sit down to plan next week’s daily to do lists which, incidentally, include around half of last week’s items that were not completed.

All because I over promise to myself and under deliver because my expectations of what I can achieve in a day are impossible.

When I realised this on Thursday, I then asked myself these questions – what would be the impact of doing it the other way around?  What if I under promised and over delivered to myself every day?  How would that work?  Would I feel better?  Would I get more done?  Would that weekly cycle of never feeling like I am on top of things stop and spin the other way?

Who knows?

But I am going to give it a try.  Tomorrow evening when I am planning my daily to do lists for the week, I will list my meetings and appointments for each day and then add one, yes just one, important task that I will complete that day.  And when I complete it, I will give myself a celebratory pat on the back for doing so.

Now, if I then go on to do some other tasks that day, because I have the time and energy to do so, all well and good.  That will be a bonus because I will have already met my promise to myself.  

Wish me luck!

Donna x

Photo by Ursula Kelly @StudioSoftboxUk

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