STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME:
Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work
The Art of Being on the Ball
By: Allan Vayman
Let’s face it, as a species humans come up with a lot of excuses for dropping the ball. We are ready to draw upon an excuse for not delivering on our word faster than a pistol in a wild west shootout.
Making excuses for dropping the ball comes easy to us. We make excuses for why we didn’t go to the gym all week, hampering our weight loss goals. Excuses for why we ended up eating at McDee’s the night before, thwarting our diet plan. Excuses for why we spent all weekend playing videogames when there was a perfect opportunity to study for an exam. Excuses for why we didn’t call that client back on time, just coming up short of our sales goal for the month. For why we showed up late, why we didn’t get any sleep, why we didn’t recycle, why we haven’t called our parents in weeks, etc…
Making excuses for dropping the ball is first nature to us, as one of our prime directives as human beings is keeping our egos intact and unscathed. However this is why, when out of the woodwork emerges a person that will do whatever is within their power to deliver on their word – doing so consistently over, and over, and over – they stand out as an anomaly to behold.
If our goal is to expediently develop a reputation for being on the ball at work, the key is to deliver on our deliverables on time, as planned. This has mainly to do with where we set our priorities more than an inherent talent to multitask, and a magical ability to meet checkpoints and deadlines. Do we keep an eye on the score of the game, or do we keep focusing on the query at hand? Do we track down that new PS4 game and clear it over the weekend, or do we commit to learning those new Excel functions that could save us time and hassle on our projects? Do we let the social function linger on, or do we feel a sense of urgency in turning back to work? These mini battles that we fight everyday ultimately communicate where our priorities lay to the people around us. Making the right choices that align with our objectives ensure we will be in the right place, at the right time, to catch a ball before it hits the ground. Even better, the right choices allow us to eliminate a ball before it ever has an opportunity to be tossed in the air.
Setting straight our priorities is the key to engaging in multiple projects and duties, and effectively being able to juggle them at the same time. When we learn to set our priorities straight and see our initiatives come to conclusion, our confidence level rises in tackling newer and more complex pursuits. Almost anybody can raise their hand to share an abstract idea. However when challenged to test that idea for its real world application few will accept. Even fewer will spearhead the idea and get it off the ground. Yet even fewer can take that idea and with a team transform it into something workable – delivered on time, as planned – without any major ball being dropped along the way. When we can move our juggling ability to the latter end of this scale, we are developing a rare skill. We are on our way to proving to ourselves that we have control over outcomes, by being able to take an idea from conception to implementation, working with real life parameters and limitations to produce a finished product.
The art of being on the ball must be bound to our DNA like a street juggler that’s executed their routine successfully dozens upon dozens of times. The street juggler knows that dropping the ball midact will kill the show, and bring the crowd to question their credibility in the profession they are engaged in. If we can treat the balls we juggle at work as critically as the street juggler, we will be well on our way to creating an air of professionalism, and establishing a reputation as a go to person for getting things done.
When a ball does get dropped however – as will happen despite our best efforts, and from lack of experience in situations we will come to deal with – it is equally important to take ownership. Taking ownership is a necessary step to internalizing the lessons learned from our blunders, and demonstrating to those we work with that we will grow from the experience. It lets them know that we will do what we must to circumvent such an occurence in the future. Learning from these experiences will gain us the ability to forecast where a ball may drop in the future, so that we will be there to catch it.
Sure, there is an acceptable margin for human error which is the ‘norm’, and for which our reputation may not take a hit. However, if once again, our goal it to expediently develop a reputation for being on the ball instead of for dropping it, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. The goal is to catch the ball so consistently that should we drop it on rare occasion, it will be quick to pass through our colleagues minds as a one-off occurrence.