As a confessed perfectionist, 'dropping the ball' is something I have never liked to do. Delivering as promised and exceeding expectations have always been my motto, so it should be no surprise that many times I have compromised my own well-being trying to fulfill all my commitments.
As a young professional in Corporate America, I saw quite often how the bosses expected people to work insane hours, miss family celebrations and disregard health altogether when we had to make a deadline. Doing all that to meet a big deadline was not the surprising thing, learning that the customer only got to see the offer a week later because he/she was on vacation when it was delivered, was. From that time on, I have always questioned, Who is setting the expectation?, Is it reasonable?, What's the worst that can happen if it can't be met?.
Spending many years of my career in Sales, made me realize that there are very few circumstances that good communication can't solve. 9 out of every 10 times I have asked a customer to grant more time to deliver a project, the customer has not had a problem with it, nor has it had a negative impact on the award process (except if we talk about public bidding processes, and then, you don't sleep or bathe until that offer is delivered on time!).
Last week I dropped the ball on this blog. It didn't get published on Monday. I wasn't feeling well when the time to get it done came, and I fought every inch of my nature before mindfully acknowledging the obvious. The world is not going to stop because I don't publish today, actually, I bet that most people didn't even notice! (although I admit that it was nice to get a couple of emails asking me about it). When you actually realize that most of the pressure you feel to get things done and to do them right, comes from YOU, you will feel liberated.
In my opinion, the secret to being able to drop the ball is to pick it back up as soon as you can. I do allow myself to drop it, but only when its imperative that it happens, when I am truly compromising my well-being (physical or mental). The danger in dropping it is that you are now telling yourself that you will allow it to happen, and if you are not disciplined enough, the temptation to let it happen again and again will get stronger and stronger. The other thing to consider is that your eagerness to drop the ball, will be tied to your performance reputation, and you don't want to mess up with that. If people know that you are trustworthy and you deliver on your commitments, they wouldn't question you when the day comes and you are not able to come through.
There are people that are experts at finding the reasons to justify letting the ball drop, and others, that risk their own health not to let it happen. As with everything, finding the right balance and understanding what's really at stake when you are considering doing it, is what would allow you to make the right decision.
Reflecting on our own "ball dropping" dynamic will tell us a whole lot about how we are living our day-to-day life. Are we overcommitting? Are we lacking motivation? Are we saying yes to things, just to go through the motions? Would love to read your thoughts on this, please share in the comments.