According to Edwin Bliss

If you ask people to do things and they usually don’t get around to them, stop asking yourself, “What’s the matter with people these days?” Instead, ask yourself, “What’s the matter with me? What am I doing (or failing to do) that causes people to give me empty promises?”

Chances are you have been training them to do just that. Whenever you ask someone to do something, whether that person is a subordinate, a co-worker, a friend, or, yes, even your boss, that person generally asks himself or herself what the chances are that the task can be “forgotten” — based on past experience with you.  If you have established a pattern of invariably following through on assignments, your project is going to get priority treatment. Nobody enjoys having to make excuses. But if there’s a pretty good chance, based on past experience, that you won’t follow through, your project is likely to wind up on the back burner, maybe permanently.

That is from his book Getting Things Done, 1976, (ISBN 0-684-14644-4). I would summarize the rest of his advice in the same section as

  1. Keep an assignment sheet with columns for date assigned, person responsible, action, due date, and completion date, because “Relying on an assignment record such as this instead of depending on memory greatly increases chances that tasks you delegate will be performed on time.”
  2. Reward timely responses.
  3. Be clear.
  4. Set deadlines, or better, mutually agreed-on deadlines.
  5. Confirm requests in writing.
  6. Request assignees to initiate status reports.
  7. Encourage people to speak up if they question the value of an assignment — to prevent procrastination.

Aside: If a man doesn’t care enough about an issue to hound you as tenaciously as a starving bounty hunter, can he really be said to care about it at all?


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