Has anything ever "fallen through the cracks?" Have you ever "dropped the ball?" Have you ever had a great idea, then lost it, only to remember it later when you would have benefited from it? If this is a familiar pattern, would you like to do something about it? Here's an approach that might reduce the incidence of these misfortunes.
- Gather data
- How often do you actually fail to do something important? How much damage is there? Maybe you remember some horrendous incidents, and you're convinced that there's a problem. But for some, the extent and the consequences of the problem are unclear. To answer these questions, track these incidents over time, possibly weeks or months. One sure sign of a problem: you start tracking and drop the ball on tracking.
- Acknowledge the problem
- Continually dropping the ball or letting things fall through the cracks isn't a path to success. If the data prove that there's a problem, then there's a problem. Fixing the problem begins with acknowledging the problem.
- Recognize that you're the one doing it
- The responsibility for repeated incidents of forgetting important issues lies with one person: the forgetter. Overload can be a cause, but if it is, then the person who's overloaded is the person most responsible for addressing the overload. Either way, the problem is the forgetter's and it's the forgetter's to address.
- Make a contract
- A contract is an agreement between two or more parties. Usually the agreement entails an exchange — one party does (or stops doing) certain things, and in exchange, Continually dropping the ball
or letting things fall through
the cracks isn't
a path to successthe other does (or stops doing) other things. Contracts describe everything from deals between partners to treaties between nations. Contracts can also help us make difficult personal changes. To make this kind of contract, tell someone else about it. Make yourself accountable to someone. If you have no one you can tell, write it down.
- Do it
- Make a plan for this change for one category of item that you repeatedly drop. A To Do list usually isn't enough. Most likely you'll need to actually schedule tasks to make them happen. Some trial-and-error might be necessary. Do whatever works for you.
- Do it again
- This is your chance to practice. Find another category of item that you repeatedly drop. Deal with that category. Do the same techniques work for this category? Or did you have to invent some new approach? For items in this category, maybe you have to break them into smaller more doable parts. Or maybe you have to learn how to ask for help. Expand your tool kit. Soon you'll become an expert at not dropping the ball.
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.