No More Mr. Unreliable!

“Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.” — Hannah Arendt, German-American political theorist.

Some things we take for granted and never really notice them until they’re missing. Little things, mostly, like fried rice with our cashew chicken or those silly stickers on bananas. But we can take big things for granted too: good health, rain, and clean air. The sudden lack of any of these can prove devastating.

In the workplace, reliability ranks high on the Taken for Granted list. Everyone taking part in your team’s workflow process, from the boss on down, must be consistently reliable. Actually, your name should be synonymous with Mr. or Ms. Reliable, especially when other’s work depends on your output.

Most of us assume we can trust others to get their jobs done, so you’ll probably never win any rewards for being reliable. But rest assured: if you start letting people down, you’ll soon lose that trust…and you may never get it back again.

Here’s how to rehabilitate a reputation as Mr. Unreliable, or avoid getting one in the first place.

No More Mr. Unreliable! by Laura Stack #productivityGet organized. Document everything and store information in your personal time management system. Track all the important events in your life on one calendar, from client meetings to birthday parties, deadlines to project milestones. Adopt a simple, consistent method of tracking and filing all the information that crosses your desk. You should never require more than a minute or two to locate any file.

Keep your promises. Once you’ve committed to something, do everything humanly possible to meet your obligations—even if that means working your tail off. But you can’t let this happen often or you’ll lose any semblance of a real life. Which means that to keep from killing yourself with overwork, you’ll have to…

Learn to say no. Too often, we lapse into unreliability because we take on too much work, and something has to give. If you have enough on your plate and don’t think you can handle a new task, don’t tell someone “yes” just to placate them. Be honest, so you won’t disappoint that person later if you can’t produce. You may have to negotiate a little if your boss is the one piling it on; just tell him or her politely you’re at max bandwidth and ask which tasks takes priority.

Promise less than you deliver. Instead of straitjacketing yourself with an over-packed schedule, build in some wriggle room. Pad time estimates a bit just in case you run into unexpected trouble. If you don’t, then you have a little extra time to play with—so you can dazzle your colleagues and bosses by over-delivering on your promises.

Address your mistakes. When you drop the ball, address your failure right away. Apologize to the people you’ve let down, accept their frustration, and ask what you can do to make it up to them. Then do what you can as quickly and lavishly as possibly.

Unreliable No More

No one expects you to perform flawlessly—and despite how it may seem—no one expects you to do everything either. So stop trying, especially if you’ve started making damaging slips. Once you’ve blown your reputation for reliability, it’ll be hard to repair. But you can do it if you work hard at it and put these pointers in play. Better yet, do so before you step onto the slippery slope of Too Much Work, and you’ll never be called Mr. or Ms. Unreliable.



  1. Great points mentioned here. 🙂

    I agree that getting organized should be on top of the list, but it really takes time to have an almost-perfect organization for stuff that you do. Until now, I still have to improve on how to organize some tasks even if I already have a working system for the others.

    • LauraStack says:

      The time it takes to set up a system that works for you is worth it in the long run. The time saved over the long-term from having a good system that is personalized for YOU makes all the difference! Thanks for commenting!