Freelancing 101

5 Tips on How to Deliver on Time and Not Overcommit and Underdeliver

Team Pepper
Posted on 7/02/226 min read
5 Tips on How to Deliver on Time and Not Overcommit and Underdeliver

Table of Contents

  • How to Deliver on Time and Not Overcommit 
  • Key Takeaways
  • Conclusion 
  • FAQs 

Over-committing and under-delivering are some of the simplest and quickest ways to erode trust. Trust can make or break a company. Therefore, it is important to make constant efforts to promote and protect your trust bonds. It isn’t easy, we know. We are all well-intentioned when it comes to completing a task on time. But even the best of us can fail if we do not manage time, procrastinate and blame external circumstances. Delivering on time has an immense impact on your credibility. 

Overcommitting occurs when you commit to more tasks, personal agendas, and responsibilities than you have available hours in the day.  Here are some of the possible underlying causes of being overcommitted and under-delivering.

  • An eagerness to be helpful, accommodating, and kind
  • A predisposition to assist and solve issues
  • No clear rules for deciding which tasks to accept or reject
  • Inability to define priorities and set your limits.
  • Collaborating with people who make non-negotiable demands
  • A lack of ability to say no or renegotiate obligations

You must understand that you have to commit to fewer tasks to be more productive. This understanding allows you to decide what you will and will not do, invest more time in what is most necessary, feel good about what you do and do not get done, and yet have time to relax and enjoy yourself. Here are some great career tips on how to deliver on time


How to Deliver on Time and Not Overcommit: 5 Tips

1. Make a to-do-list

Maintain a to-do list to manage your workload swiftly and efficiently. Your daily to-do list serves as a running diary and provides you with an overview of your day-to-day work with the specified deadlines. Write down all the tasks you hope to accomplish in a day on your to-do list. Include your work schedule, family activities, self-care, and social events.

Take out your calendar to organize all of your commitments on one page. As you continue down the list, pick which tasks you will complete, which you will decline, and which you will renegotiate. Keep in mind that you have time constraints. This way, you can exactly establish what you need to do to get a balanced life that allows you to focus on what is most important. Check that your commitments are balanced – work, play, health, growth, outreach, and so on.

Before taking on an additional task, be sure you have a clear understanding of what is expected of you and how much time you will need to devote to it. Request a few minutes, if not hours, to review your schedule and get back to them. It ensures you make the best decisions about how to use your time.                                                       

2. Overestimate the time you need

When we commit to something with a deadline, we usually consider how long it will take to finish. However, we rarely consider the unforeseen distractions, emergencies, and other time drains that undoubtedly arise. When others request something, they rarely think how much of your time and work it will require. Use this to your advantage and just double your time estimations.

You have met your deadline if you end up needing every minute of the doubled amount of time you have set aside. If you do not need every minute, you have finished the project sooner than expected, and your customer will appreciate it. Under promising and over-delivering is doing a little more than specified and going the extra mile to please customers. 

3. Prioritize your tasks

According to research by two business school professors, people overcommit because we expect to have more time in the future than we do now. However, as tomorrow becomes today, there always seems to be too little time and way too much to do. One of the most crucial skills to learn is carefully selecting your activities that have the potential. Dealing with an overcommitted schedule is challenging.

Setting priorities and allocating time wisely are essential skills for accomplishing personal and professional goals. Divide the work into manageable mini-tasks. You may prioritize and assign time slots to each one of them. Taking control of your time and schedule allows you to increase productivity, improve your quality of life, and build a reputation you can be proud of. 


4. Learn to say no

Before reacting with a definite yes, think about the consequences. Categorize the requests as yes, maybe, or a solid no. When your schedule is already at capacity, it is not only acceptable but also necessary to say no. Feel comfortable setting limitations on yourself. Saying no and politely dismissing appealing offers will serve you far better than taking on a project, quitting, and disappointing people.

Saying no does not always imply rejecting bad ideas or absurd requests. To gain an edge over overcommitting, you will have to say no to things you genuinely want to do. Take charge of your work and avoid the stress and strain of doing an impossible task.

If you were unable to get a clear enough answer even after considering the consequences of the request, it is OK to say “maybe” to buy yourself some time. It is all right if you do not have all the knowledge you need to make an informed decision right away. The bottom line is that you cannot accomplish all tasks. You must invest some time to distinguish between good and impossible requests.


5. Renegotiate as needed

You could easily be handing over your clients directly to your competitors due to poor planning or lack of judgment, as well as your failure to meet promises. Nobody will want to do business with you if your poor reputation surpasses the quality of your work. As a result, you must build your reputation on above-average service, unwavering trust, and always deliver on time.

Sometimes new tasks arise that require your immediate attention. Instead of overburdening yourself, you should re-prioritize and renegotiate your existing obligations. If you cannot deliver on time, cannot reach the agreed-upon timeline, or must break your word, take responsibility for the circumstances. 

Contact the customer as soon as possible, explain the reason for the delay, and provide an updated completion date by which you can reasonably expect the work to be complete. Do not pick an arbitrary date and risk failure a second time, as this could result in the loss of the entire business.

Key Takeaways

  • Keeping your commitments is important if you want to keep the trust of your customers and expand your business.
  • Keep track of all obligations, tasks, ideas, and projects on your agenda.
  • Manage all the tasks efficiently by preparing a schedule and utilizing your negotiating abilities to fulfill your commitments.
  • Reduce your to-do list to the mini-tasks and start moving towards closure.
  • Rather than plunging right to a commitment, spend a few minutes reviewing your schedule and task lists.
  • If you cannot complete a task within a given period or by a specific date, be honest about it.
  • Be realistic with your deadlines so you can under-promise and over-deliver every time.


When you take on projects that are way over your head or fail to put in the necessary effort, you are over-committing and creating false expectations. You will soon be labeled unreliable and lose out on raises, opportunities, and promotions. It can take years to establish your credibility, yet it only takes one or two unsatisfied customers to bring everything crashing down. Break free from this cycle by making achievable commitments. You will feel more in control if you implement these five career growth tips to stop overcommitting. You will also gain a reputation for being sincere, honest, dependable, and trustworthy leading to your growth and career success.


1. How can overcommitment and under-delivery be prevented?

1. Turn down some incoming tasks if it puts additional pressure on you.
2. Avoid making last-minute plans.
3. Examine your schedule and available time before committing.

2. What are the signs of over-commitment?

1. Your to-do list has grown significantly.
2. You cannot recall when you last said no.
3. Your standard of service has plummeted.

3. How to respond if the client has an infeasible request?

Being truthful and telling the client that the given deadline is unrealistic demonstrates that you are committed to quality work and understand how long it takes to achieve it.

4. How can you complete all the listed tasks?

Put events and deadlines on a calendar, make to-do lists, and schedule things. Planning and being organized allows you to maintain productivity while avoiding pressure and stress.

5. How can you figure out the right level of commitment for you?

Setting up commitment limits for yourself makes it easier to decline a request or renegotiate previous commitments.

6. What should be your first response to any new work?

Instead of giving them a ‘yes’ right at the moment, it is advisable to take your time to decide. Keeping a planner for all your commitments can help you in the decision.