I have always found that writing a commitment on paper increases the likelihood that you will actually do it. I thought that this habit of list making and putting pen to paper was merely a personal quirk, something that happens to help me work more effectively.
However, it seems that writing things down is not just beneficial for a few individuals like me. It is a proven method for increasing your own effectiveness at work, reducing the stress levels of life in general, and something well worth adopting.
Firstly, writing down your commitments makes you more likely to act on them. A written commitment focuses your mind on a task. It’s easy to get side-tracked by low-priority work and to (consciously or subconsciously) avoid the bigger, more important, or more unpleasant issues. Having a written promise draws your attention back to what you have promised to do.
Secondly, as simple as it may sound, ticking items off a written list produces a greater sense of achievement. Just as success breeds success, feeling more productive increases your productivity. There’s certainly no harm in creating a sense of satisfaction and progress.
Thirdly, if the task is not urgent and does not need to be focussed on straight away, writing it down clears your head and allows you to think freely about the important issues of the here and now. Simply put, writing something down means you can devote your mind entirely to thinking instead of remembering.
Fourthly, it provides a reality check. It’s easy to keep nodding in agreement when in conversation with someone and agree to take action on a number of points. Writing down each action gives you a realistic idea of the scale and timescale of what you are agreeing to, allowing you to manage expectations and avoid overreaching yourself.
Finally, for the more emotionally intelligent, it can act as a sounding board. When making large scale, life-changing decisions we are likely to want to talk them through with a friend. Referring every single decision to a contact would paralyse our activity, but seeing your own promises in writing and assessing your feelings towards them gives you a good indication as to whether you are pursuing the correct course of action.
Writing down your commitments helps you to ensure you are committing to the right actions, makes sure they get done, prevents you from distraction and provides satisfaction when they are done. It’s a simple and effective method for improving the way you work.