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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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
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- When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
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