Likelihood to Accept to Do Something You Don’t Really Want to Do Increases as Time Left Before the Event Increases

It’s much more likely that you promise to do something, e.g. to go to an event or a meeting, to carry out a task, or to provide a document to someone, when there is still lot of time in calendar before you have to fulfil the promise. You just don’t judge those commitments with same rigor you would if you had to do it for example tomorrow. This was an insight we co-had with one of my coaching clients, with some real life anecdotal proof from both of our lives to back it up.

Let’s say there’s a meeting about something vaguely interesting coming up in a month, and your colleague asks do you want to join? You check your calendar, notice that there’s not much there at the moment and it sounds interesting. So you say “sure, please send me the invitation!”, and make an initial reservation in your calendar. Most of the time, these commitments even feel good at that moment, as you feel that I’m very busy now but in the future I’ll have time for all this cool stuff I really want to do.

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Likelihood to say “yes!” grows as function of time left before the event.

The problem is that what is the future at present moment soon becomes the actual present moment. And there you are in the new current reality, with packed calendar and lots of things to do, again lamenting why you agreed to all this stuff in the first place.

So what do you need to do? Start applying real criteria to your long term decisions in the same way you do to your short term decisions. If you have to decide whether you want to do something today or tomorrow, you will evaluate against every other possible use for your time, including relaxing on a sofa or having some free time for your own stuff. But usually you don’t go through the same honest prioritisation for the commitments that are further away in the future.

So if you can, imagine yourself in that day in the future when you actually need to carry out the task or participate the event, and ask yourself “will I still be satisfied with my past self accepting to do this, when I actually have to do this?”. If the answer to this question is “no”, you would probably be able to increase your overall happiness, well-being and just general feel of being in control of your own time, if you can resist your temptation to say “yes”.

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