For many people, canceling and rescheduling plans, whether in the workplace or in one’s personal life, is a regular and seemingly-avoidable occurrence.
Thanks to calendar apps and the popularity of texting and email, canceling has never been as easy as it is today... but many experts believe that we as a society would find more positive experiences in both our professional and personal lives if we resist the urge to put off that meeting for another week or to invent an illness to dodge a friend’s birthday party. Read on for five compelling reasons to stick to your commitments, backed up by experts from the Harvard Business Review, Stanford University, and the Wall Street Journal.
Sometimes, rescheduling or canceling an appointment can’t be helped; last-minute changes of plans happen, and colleagues and friends will typically excuse the occasional “so sorry, I double-booked!”...as long as it doesn’t become a habit. But if you find yourself canceling commitments more often than you keep them, then you may discover some adverse responses to this behavior, both from others and from yourself. “The thought process [of canceling] still isn’t pain-free. We feel guilty about it. We waffle over what to do — and the indecision is draining. Finally, we cancel, and we undermine our confidence in ourselves. It reinforces our conviction that we can’t do it all — that we can’t control our schedule, or even our effort,” cautions executive coach Whitney Johnson in the Harvard Business Review.
As we just mentioned, the consequences of canceling plans on the reg can affect your self-esteem and your interpersonal relationships. And, as you might imagine, it can also wreak havoc on your professional image. CNBC recently reported on Stanford University’s policies for best business practices, and their outlook on employees who constantly reschedule is as follows: “Employees who consistently overcommit and then cancel eventually spiral down a rabbit hole of skipping calls, not finishing assignments (or finishing them poorly) and being routinely late. Not only do they become unreliable, but they become a liability to their employers.”
If you’re gearing up to reschedule a work meeting or a social hangout, consider this conclusion drawn by the Wall Street Journal: three strikes, and you’re out. “‘By the third time I start to get suspicious: This is a brushoff,’ says Jennifer Pinck, president of a real estate advisory and project-management company in Boston. “You may ascribe it to nefarious intent, but you don’t really know.” So she always gives a gracious reply: “Look, it sounds like you’re really busy. I’m still very interested in meeting with you. Let me know when you have time,” the Wall Street Journal states.
Still wondering what’s so wrong about canceling a lunch or rescheduling a budget meeting? In addition to showing inadequate regard for other peoples’ time, this habit also reads as childish to outside observers. “Keeping commitments is a sign of maturity. Employees who don’t finish assignments, for instance, or finish them late or poorly, or are themselves routinely late, miss meetings, and cancel appointments, are an imposition on other team members and a liability to their employers,” explains the Harvard Business Review.
It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and tell yourself “I guess I’m just bad at sticking to plans. Nothing I can do to fix that!” However, the HBR has a few helpful tips for keeping yourself on-task and upping your reliability factor: “Commit yourself to not agreeing to do things unless you’re going to follow through. Ask for time to think things over if you’re unsure. Don’t overschedule yourself. If you’re truly overextended, you may require a transition period to weed some things out; after that, once you say yes to something, stick to the yes.”