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Keep expectations in check with these tools and tips

Expectations are assumptions that things in the future WILL happen.

They are a belief that certain outcomes or events will happen and, while expectations influence our vison, goals, and boundaries, it is important to keep them sensible and prevent overhype and unnecessary gaps between perceptions and realities.

If we let expectations run out of control we will, unsurprisingly, end up disheartening ourselves and others, and even damage personal and professional relationships.

Managing expectations is an underutilised skill and if more of us did it we could avoid a lot of the day-to-day drama that goes on in every workplace! So, with that in mind, these tools and tips will help you to give the right significance to expectation, whether they’re yours or someone else’s. After all:

"If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed" - Terrell Owens

You can also read our summary on how reframing your views can help you make expectations work.


Don’t promise the Earth
Earth promise
Honouring promises, no matter how small, can earn you a superb reputation for reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness and, in turn, can help you to develop and deepen your working relationships. But, sometimes, it can be difficult to do what we say we'll do, and the impact of breaking a promise can be disastrous. This toolkit explores why we break promises and offers five suggestions to help you to avoid doing so again and keep expectations in hand. It is also useful to consider your intentions and how they can influence your commitments and (this is really important) how to make them stick, so you don't let anyone down. 
The Way of Life app is a pretty cool tool to track your promises and includes handy additional features such as setting reminders and archiving completed goals, while this round-up of productivity apps gives you loads of options to find a tool that will help you meet your commitments from the comfort of your mobile device. 
Get organised
One of the most difficult aspects of managing a is setting, and then managing, the expectations of those involved; this could be end-users, clients, stakeholders, and so on. As a good project manager, you know that creating a timeline, agreeing a budget, and defining the scope of a project upfront is helpful; but if expectations are unrealistic, this will easily blow up. You need to make sure that all parties are on the same page and have the same understanding so it’s best to make a plan to make it happen – if you don’t it won’t, and we've written about that here
These 15 project management apps all performed incredibly well in 2020, and are expected to continue to do so this year, include Trello, Monday.com, Asana, and Basecamp to name just a few. We have also shared some of our favourite apps previously along with loads of handy guides on how to collaborate, and manage the expectations of various groups, senior management, and even those who are obstructive. Check it out.

Manage yourself!
Unmet expectations can often lead to anger, disappointment, and other disruptive feelings. If you’re cross about an unmet expectation, it will probably lead to impairment of your ability to think clearly about how to move forward or you may even lose self-control and say or do something you’ll later regret.
Mindfulness can be used as a tool to manage expectations and these two powerful tools uncover the barriers to setting healthy expectations. This article focuses on expectations in a work situation and shares two principles to go from frazzled to flexible in any context, and here the case is presented that living in the now, developed through meditation practice, is the way to free ourselves from this tyranny manifested in the endless cycle of ever-increasing expectations. 



Get in early

Early expectations
Getting expectations in check early on, in any working collaboration or project, is important to establishing the relationship and ensuring that you can work together for the long haul. These 12 tips about managing expectations you can’t afford to miss include honesty, authenticity, and good communication, and these 10 tried and tested tactics on approaches for good expectation management early in a relationship are compiled by young entrepreneurs. And our 10 steps to make good use of time is always worth a read.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Did we say communicate? In fact, overcommunicate. Overcommunicate and overcommunicate, and then communicate some more.

Why? You can’t control the way people think, feel, or react but you can communicate to them and make clear what you expect and what they can expect. Then make sure that you keep communicating, especially if circumstances change and outcomes may be impacted. These tips outline how to provide clear, direct expectations to help others focus on what's important, and here are some tips on reaching out with a newsletter, along with ideas on how your communications team can help you

Be direct

State expectations in a direct, unambiguous way to minimise confusion and reinforce actions and outcomes. These three useful ways to be direct will ensure you’re not rude as it doesn’t make sense to hurt people’s feelings. If you do you find yourself on the side of blunt, these steps will help you be helpfully honest instead.

Let’s not forget that being direct isn’t the same as being aggressive; rather it’s an essential skill for any leader and can help ensure expectations are clear, needs are articulated and urgency communicated. So, check out these tips to watch your tone and be direct. 


Now, we really do expect you to pop over here and see how reframing your opinions can help you to make expectations work.

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Jennifer Clair Robson

Jennifer Clair Robson

Writing to make a difference because climate change, sustainability and the environment are issues close to my heart.

Topics: Tips and tools

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