Have you have been told “don’t drop the ball” or perhaps you have told someone else not to? While most understand the expression, it is often difficult to keep the intent while juggling many balls. What types of “balls” are you maintaining: school, work, hobbies, sports coach, kids, kids homework, yard work… the list goes on. So how do you successfully maintain the mentality of “don’t drop the ball” while maintaining your sanity? Most don’t, at least not very well.
So how do you actually manage all of your tasks and maintain your sanity? I propose that we evaluate what types of balls we are dealing with, and choose which we can actually drop. An expanded version of the “don’t drop the ball” saying is to categorize them as rubber, metal, or glass.
A rubber ball
A rubber ball item is something that if dropped, will bounce back with little to no repercussions. You can delay these tasks without anyone really knowing or caring. These are easy to pick up and keep moving along as if nothing really happened. This could be a task you give yourself such as mowing the lawn or organizing email. You are likely the only one to really notice if it is done or not.
A metal ball
A metal ball item is something that you could drop, it will get noticed, but really isn’t that consequential. Metal balls are heavy so they will take extra effort to get on schedule and completed on time. Drop a metal ball only if needed and only if you have the time and resources (personnel or money) to invest and get the ball back on track. This could be a reoccurring task such as approving organizational purchases. If ignored for a few days, nobody will really notice but your workload will increase when you get around to catching up.
A glass ball
A glass ball item is something that you cannot drop. If you do, the ball will shatter and cannot be put back together. You will need to start the task over and will likely face consequences. This could be something assigned to you by your boss such as a major report due or paying your mortgage – you just cannot afford to be late.
Only you will be able to identify if you are dealing with a rubber, metal, or glass ball. Evaluate your situation, identify the ball you are dealing with, and handle it accordingly. Just keep in mind how many you can actually handle at once without becoming overwhelmed or unproductive.
Jared W. Snow