Weighing up Promises

I have mixed feelings when it comes to making promises. I recall someone say: “promise often and keep your promises”; but one must remember that giving a promise is like taking out a loan for consumption purposes. In case of buying on credit, you purchase things you haven’t got the money for [yet]. In case of a promise, you say you’ll do something that you haven’t done yet. In both situations you are making decisions for a time that isn’t yours *yet*.

And that’s risky.


The reverse of the medal is that every promise involves a burden – a commitment. And it sticks to you. David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, established the expression “open loop.” Well, a promise is definitely an “open loop” – it stays in your head as long as you don’t close the issue. Unfortunately, breaking a promise doesn’t mean you close it. Oft-times you move it to a darker, hidden side of your consciousness. That’s where guilt resides.

Open Loop

Any open commitment, plan, or unfinished business that exists in your life. It is typical today for a busy person to have many hundreds or even thousands of open loops bouncing around throughout their conscious and unconscious thought processes, all vying for attention. Most of the stress people experience (conscious or otherwise) tends to come from inappropriately managed open loops (commitments) they make or accept.

Source: http://gtdportal.pbwiki.com/GTDGlossary


With time and experience, we usually choose a more measured approach. We think twice, thrice before we say “yes!” In Project Management it’s especially popular to say: “underpromise and overdeliver.”

(BTW, the actual quote was “Underpromise; overdeliver” by Tom Peters.)