U + A = C

-By Isabell Howden
A very wise advertising man taught me this equation many years ago (albeit after he himself had learnt it from a very wise non-advertising man many more years earlier…) and it is the essence of simplicity as a solution to missing deadlines, disappointing others, putting oneself under stress and a myriad of other workplace ills.

Basically, the premise is this – if you understand what is being asked of you, and you willingly accept the terms of the undertaking, then you have made a commitment to complete that task.

Understanding + Acceptance = Commitment

Deceptively simple you might think.

But once you have committed to meeting the deadline, staying within the budget, having the presentation ready before the client is sitting in the boardroom, whatever, it also means you have eschewed the right to make excuses – the dog did not eat your homework. Ever.
What this requires, of course, is the confidence and assertiveness to push back if unreasonable demands are being made in the first place. If you are being asked to do something by the end of the day but you know it will take at least two days to get all the elements prepared, then you need to be able to say NO, it’s simply not possible in that timeframe.

This is where the equation gets tricky. Especially for younger staff members still finding their way and trying to prove themselves – at some stage early in our careers we have all willingly worked ridiculous hours and even pulled the odd all-nighter simply because we were given an impossible task with an unreasonable deadline.

This is not a sustainable long-term working philosophy and the more we agree to the disproportionate demands of clients or employers, the more they come to expect it and soon the impossible becomes the norm. Far better to learn to modify their expectations with logical, considered facts about the actual time required to perform the tasks being requested and agree on a workable timetable than to succumb to constant stress and inevitable failure.

However, for those times when we do understand, and we do agree, then we are totally committed to delivering. In those situations the imperative is that:
We do what we say we will do
(another mantra from my wise advertising man)

No excuses. No ifs. No buts. And if things go wrong and you have to work all night, then so be it. That’s what coffee was invented for.

1 Comment

  • Iris Zantop on August 31, 2015 10:56 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing Isabelle and wise men. How very true and so beautifully written.

Leave a Comment