Why You Should Never Say “Piece of Cake”

Posted January 14, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

Someone once told me that the key to building a great reputation in business is simple: under promise and over deliver. Unfortunately, this concept isn’t as easy as it seems, especially for women. Women tend, on a global level, to constantly say things like, “No problem” and “Sure, I can get that done by Monday” and worst of all, some version of “Piece of cake.”

Inevitably, when we say these things, we’re setting ourselves up for spending all weekend pounding out a project that makes us want to pull out our own hair, up until midnight worrying you’ll never hit the deadline. Over time, our willingness to consistently over promise is causing millions of tears and countless grey hairs. Because the problem here is that women don’t do the opposite of over promise and over deliver. We do the double – over promise and over deliver. But are we doing more work than we need to?

How can you start under promising to manage your own stress? Try these tips first:

  • Always overestimate your time to complete a project. If you’re anything like me, you look at something and think, “Oh, no biggie, that’ll take me an hour.” What we forget to incorporate into that equation, though, is the fact that we could potentially hit roadblocks in the process. Our technology could malfunction, another project could completely explode and take precedence. Countless roadblocks could change your timeline. So start practicing saying “I’ll get it to you tomorrow morning” when you really mean “by end of day today” and start saying “end of next week” when you really mean “likely by Tuesday.”
  • Sometimes, done is good. We’re all guilty of wanting perfection at one time or another. Too often, women spend our time tweaking, perfecting, changing, while we should be closing. You want your work to be great, but you have to be able to distinguish between something being nitpicked to death perfect and something being ready. Ready…done…is sometimes more important in the process than perfection.
  • Ask for help. When we’re struggling to meet a deadline or feeling like a project is in crisis, it’s easy to retreat to your corner and say “get out of my hair.” The last thing we want to do in that situation is ask for help. That time, though, is the most important time to reach out. When you’ve over promised and you’re scared of missing delivery, ask for help. It might be as simple as asking your coworker to take a fresh eye look at the problem or asking your partner at home to take over the laundry and dinner so you can focus. Whatever the help you need might be, ask for it. You’ll never be sorry you did.

The key here is to remind yourself that under promising doesn’t mean being an under achiever. Under promising just gives you the opportunity to do your best work with less pressure. Take the heat off of you and by all means, stop saying things like “piece of cake.”

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."