This year, I set a goal to read two books every month. I recently finished Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu* and wow, was it eye opening. The premise is that by dropping the ball in work and in life, we’re able to find time to do what matters most to us. Seems a little counter-intuitive: by not doing some things, we can do other things better.
With everyone hitting the wall on their new year resolutions and letting that list of goals and accomplishments become coffee-stained and forgotten, this concept comes at a great time. Drop the ball. Do less. Achieve more.
Delegating is hard (trust me, I know.) It’s necessary, though, so we don’t burn ourselves out and become even more fatigued than we already are.
Right after reading this book, I was faced with a situation in which I could drop the ball and have a much better time and (here’s the kicker) no one really cared that I didn’t do the thing I said I would do.
We were out with my boyfriend’s sister and brother-in-law right before they moved. We ordered a cannoli cake for dessert that missed the mark — and for a table made up mostly of Italians, you best believe we noticed. Me, in my ever-present thinking of I could make that and I could do it better! said, “I’ll make cannoli when we come see you this week before you leave. It’ll be great!”
And then the week started and I was swamped. To top it off, I got word that a relative was in the hospital (she’s fine now) and I wanted to visit her as soon as I could, which happened to be on the day we were supposed to see my boyfriend’s sister before she left. So that day, I had my meetings and went to the store to procure cannoli supplies and visited the hospital. Everything was going great until I went to another grocery store to buy cannoli shells.
I know, I was buying cannoli shells instead of making them myself. I thought that was the answer to dropping the ball (and also not buying cannoli forms. What else would I use them for??)
Of course, that store didn’t have cannoli shells. I could have (and probably should have) gone to a specialty Italian store, but I was running out of time.
So I made the choice to drop the ball. Let me tell you, it stung not to be able to do it all. My time was better spent creating an email for a client, though, instead of driving to another part of town in a wild goose chase for these magical Italian treats.
Guess what? No one cared I didn’t deliver fresh cannoli. No one even remembered I said I was going to make cannoli. What really mattered is that I showed up and was present for a visit. And the mini Oreo cheesecakes that I did bring with me were just as good. (Pro tip: keep cookies in the freezer that you can grab-and-go when you need a quick hostess gift.)
How dropping the ball lets you focus on what matters (and have a better quality of life so you can show up for the big things).
The first thing to do is get really clear on the big things that matter most to you.
In Drop the Ball, Tiffany said she wanted to help girls become leaders and raise conscientious children. Does stressing about Valentine’s Day cards help with any of that? No. She let it go. She embraced the idea that done is better than perfect and had her kids make Valentine cards for their class. In my example, spending meaningful time with those I care about is more important than being perceived as the next coming of Betty Crocker.
The next, and I’ll argue harder, step is letting go.
Being a martyr will help no one. Your quality of life is so poor from the stress of trying to please everyone while not doing anything to please yourself. The work you do is probably riddled with errors and mistakes and missed assignments anyway. And if you like playing the martyr role, you should probably move on from this post right now because I’m giving off all kinds of anti-martyr spirit.
When you let go of the things that you think you should do and stop worrying about how people will look at you if you car isn’t always perfectly detailed, it allows you to make time for what’s really important. You’ll also experience a better caliber of work delivered since you’ll be able to focus on one task at a time and do it extremely well.
You have to let go of those things AND the idea that you can do everything. We’ve all heard someone say, “I don’t know how she does it all.” I’m willing to bet a) she’s incredible frazzled at all times, b) has a team helping her do it all, or c) doesn’t really do it all.
So, when opportunities come along that don’t contribute to your big dreams, let them go. It’s perfectly okay to say, “This won’t work for me, but here’s someone who can help.” It’s a gentle way of saying no and preserving your time and sanity while still being helpful.
It’ll also show the world that you’re serious about what you do. You’re the expert and you don’t let anything derail you from getting that big shiny object you want. I’d rather work with someone who knows exactly what they do and who they help instead of someone who kinda sorta almost can get the results I want.
The key here is to hold firm to your convictions. It takes practice! I’m a recovering do-it-all-yourselfer and there are still times when I overload my schedule and fool myself into thinking I can accomplish everything.
When we drop the things that won’t help us move the mountains that we want to move, we’re able to give our full attention to the projects that will.
What balls have you dropped or are planning to drop? And what’s the big thing you want to make happen?
Leave your answer in the comments. I’d love to cheer you on!
*This is an affiliate link from Amazon. If you should you purchase via this link, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Coffee isn’t cheap and this helps keep me caffeinated and sane! Thanks!