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Under promising

Prerequisites: undoing fear and saying no

Two types of under promising

Two types of under promising are essential. The first type is under promising on your daily plan or your daily “To-Do List.” The second type is under promising on a specific activity that Next is interested in (like exercise), yet Now is reluctant to agree to the amount or quality that Next wants (like how long or how vigorously to exercise).


Under promising on your plan (1st type)


Without being tempered by both Now’s input and by getting clear about what can and cannot be done, Next’s habit is to over promise. “More accomplishment is always better” is Next’s motto. “We need to do this. We must do that.” Next is often driven by ego, by fear, by ambition, by “have to,” to add more and more and more to the schedule.

The “Fantasy List”


Most people’s “To Do List” each day (or for a given time period, like a week) is much closer to a “Fantasy List” than to a list of task items are doable under normal circumstances. Consequently, we are constantly feeling pressured to work faster and harder, often cutting corners, having no buffer, not enjoying the process, and, at the end of the day, criticizing ourselves for not having gotten more done. Others of us have given up altogether on creating a daily “To Do List,” precisely because we’ve had these unwanted experiences whenever we planned our days in the past. We avoid those circumstances and feelings by foregoing the advantages of planning and making a “To Do List.”

95% chance of winning


Welcome to the new world of under promising, where these previous disadvantages of planning disappear. But, note, especially at the beginning, it will be a choice of courage for my-next to under promise. At the start of each day, when you are making up your list, Next (who is interested in the rest of the day being productive and happy) will need to follow a new directive, a new guideline:


Next’s job (with the manager’s hat on) is to set the day up, to create the “To Do List” so that the Do-er (which will be Now) will have a 95% chance of getting everything on the list done. This means that Now can more easily enjoy the process, with Next and Now celebrating at the end of the day for everything that got done.

...whichever comes first


One important sub-technique for creating such a list is that, for tasks that may require an indefinite period of time to finish, the promise is set as, “I will finish the task or spend 45 minutes on it, whichever comes first.” This makes the promise prudent and, therefore, the plan for the day prudent. When you are planning the next day, if you were not able to finished the task during the previous day, you can continue to make such prudent promises for that task until it is finished.

Why only 95%?


Why do we say “95% chance of winning,” instead of 100%? Because unexpected circumstances may arise during the day, the handling of which, is more important than following all of our original plan. It may also take a while before Next fully breaks his or her old habit of over promising and learns to estimate more accurately how long various tasks may take. Additionally, it’s a new habit for Next to leave buffer in the plan so that items not specified on the plan (a simple example: time in the bathroom) can easily be accommodated. Moreover, this planned buffer time allows for some breakdowns to be easily addressed without impacting the whole schedule.

Under promising on specific activities (2nd type)


Under promising on specific activities comes in two flavors. The first involves agreeing to a smaller amount of time. The second involves agreeing to a quality of activity that is more agreeable to Now.

A smaller amount of time


Now is not just concerned about NOW, but can often accommodate the “near now.” This makes it easier to come to agreements with Next. For example, let’s say Next wants to get out of bed (and stay out of bed) when the alarm first rings in the morning. But, when the alarm rings, Now is more dominant and wants to stay in bed. Perhaps Next and Now might come to the following agreement (which would be under promising from Next’s point of view): “We will get out of bed for five minutes. After five minutes, if Now still wants to get back into bed, then Next will agree, with no criticism. Otherwise, if Now is okay with staying out of bed, we’ll continue to stay up and enjoy starting our day together.”

A change in quality standards


Another way that Now may be willing to cooperate with Next is if Next is willing to agree to a change in the quality standards for the activity. For instance, Next wants to do some writing. But Now objects to Next’s “perfectionistic” standards which make the task unpleasant for Now and therefore he is reluctant to start writing. If Next will choose some courage to let go of his higher standards, then Now could enjoy the process enough so that Now is then happy to sit down together and write.  Another example: Next wants to exercise. But Now doesn’t feel the energy to match Next’s idea of how vigorous the exercise should be. If Next would agree to some exercise that required a lower level of exertion, then Now would come on board with doing the exercise.

Courage to under promise, both to yourself and to others

Often it is a choice of courage to under promise, both to oneself, and even more so to others. If you notice that you're nervous about under promising, use undoing fear to disappear that nervousness and tap into the energy of your fear. 

Part of under promising to others may include saying no to them. See also doer and the planner, lifestyle first, results second, and is your life a buffet?

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