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They’re called ‘commitments’ for a reason

I keep track of my life, both professionally and personally, through Wunderlist. It syncs with my iPhone, iPad and work computer, so I can keep track of my to-dos regardless of location. I can share lists with different people, so my paralegal and I can track deadlines (or my wife will ensure that I buy the correct type of tomatoes from the grocery store). Some days I find myself more productive than others, checking off completed tasks, watching the list dwindle and seeing items being sent to some far off cyber-trash can. On other days, it appears as if I am simply postponing the completion of my to-dos to a later date.

For the last few weeks, an item has popped up on my Wunderlist – “Write Generation J.D. blog.” And at the end of each day, I have simply changed the due date to “tomorrow.” And every time I push off drafting a blog post that I committed to doing, I feel as if I am failing in a commitment that I have made. To be sure, I volunteer for the opportunity to be a blogger. There is no immediate financial gain for me to blog but it gives me an opportunity to impart some (hopefully helpful) tidbits of advice to other lawyers and generate an Internet presence, plus it is kind of fun to have an electronic soapbox to shout from every other week.

It is easy to shake off a commitment in which one is a voluntary participant. You can tell yourself, “I’m not getting paid” or “It’s my time and it’s not hurting anyone if I don’t show up.”  But not fulfilling a voluntary commitment does affect others and it does affect you. Taking a position on a board or committee is more than simply having your name on letterhead or on webpage.

Your position can be filled by someone who will be an active and contributing part of the organization. Failing to show up, failing to do your job and failing to be a contributing member (even for a voluntary organization) affects your reputation, especially in such a small legal community that we have in this state. I have heard chairs of boards or organizations remark about the lack of participation of other members. I have heard the whispers or complaints from other board members. By signing up, you are signing on to the commitment.

Next week, I am meeting with the head of a nonprofit board about the possibility of becoming a member. While I would normally jump at the chance to be a board member for this organization, I need to make sure that their expectations of my involvement meet my ability to meet their expectations. It is fair to the organization and it is fair to me. Sometimes it may be better to say “Thank you, but I do not have the time right now” than to take a position in which you will fail.

So, instead of simply moving the date to “tomorrow” on my Wunderlist, I am checking this “Write Generation J.D. blog” off my list (at least for two weeks) and meeting a commitment that I have made. And it feels good.