Have you ever been to a bar with a sign that promises Free Beer Tomorrow?
At first you’re like this is amazing, I’ll be back tomorrow for that free beer.
However each day you come back the sign does not change…
Your initial excitement over the prospect quickly turns into realization that you aren’t ever going to get that free beer are you?
That realization quickly turns into frustration. You have been mislead. Now you don’t trust those words will ever turn into that original excitement of free beer. Keep reading to see how Free Beer signs apply to our everyday relationships both inside and outside of work.
What are open loops?
Getting Things Done introduces the idea of open loops, which are really incomplete tasks. The more of these you collect the heavier everything feels, the more stressed you are etc.
This is one way to reduce this and in my experience live a much more happy and productive life. That said, there are many ways to do this and the important thing isn’t to use Getting Things Done or any other method or tool , it is to find the right tool for you!
What does free beer have to do with work?
This is where the “next week fallacy” comes into play for both Individual Contributors, Managers and Managers of Managers. Or said differently, everybody whether at work or home.
Each time you tell a coworker, direct report, your boss or anyone else at work that “you’ll take something up”, “expect a decision soon”, “should have clarity next week” you’ve created a social contract. How you as a human act to follow through on this social contract has big consequences over time. They consequences might not be immediate, they do however collect over time and lead to positive or negative relationships.
You’ve told someone “you’ll take something up”, “expect a decision soon”, “should have clarity next week”,“will get back to them”.
You never do.
More than a week or weeks go by, nothing ever happens.
Just because the other human doesn’t act as your enforcer of social contracts and continuously check in on it does not mean:
- That human has forgotten.
- That human finds the lack of response acceptable.
You’ve now created a slight with that human. When that human collects to many of those slights they are more likely to seek better relationships.
You’ve told someone “you’ll take something up”, “expect a decision soon”, “should have clarity next week”.
You follow up.
Maybe not even with the actual answer or resolution, just an update that you are still awaiting X, Y or Z and will follow up again either way.
NOTE: One should never promise what is not in their control to give.
That said updates either way and frequent communication are always in your control.
You’ve created clarity, trust and a stronger relationship.
How do I start?
Simple to say (words), harder to do (actions) consistently.
Find your process to capture these open loops. Follow through either way.
Maybe that is Getting Things Done, maybe it’s just jotting them down in field notes. Experiment and find what works for you while realizing this is a journey not and exercise in finding perfection.
Most importantly, follow through with humans, be honest with them and build long lasting bonds.