Art of Dropping Plates

Imagine yourself at the end of a crazy work week. You are sitting there with your to-do list, and there is a lot more “to do” then has been “to done”. It’s decision time. You just can’t get it all done. Something is going to have to drop. What is it? How do you choose?

We’ve all been there. In those moments we decide to drop the things our boss or family won’t notice. It is not that we’re comfortable with that. It’s just the truth. We drop whatever we feel like we can and move on. Then in two weeks, it happens again and maybe we make a different choice or just pray that no one noticed you dropped another spinning plate.

Because you are a leader your to-do list will always be piling up with things that need to get done. You will always have to prioritize our work. It’s part of leading. But what if we came at the problem from a different angle? What if instead of deciding inside a vacuum what we believe will be the least harmful option we bring in other wise people, our family, and bosses into this conversation.

A quick aside; as leaders, our list is always piling up so it is important to create good systems, automation, and work rhythms to help you get better. We are going to talk about that (cause I love that stuff) but for right now I want to talk about this idea of bringing people into your work routine and decision making.

There are tons of mini-decisions made before you decide to drop something. Will my boss get mad at me? What do my kids have a game tonight? Was my wife in a good mood or bad today? What’s the difference between turning it in tonight and tomorrow morning?

A year ago I sat down with my boss, a list of my regular task and a heart to get better. I asked him to help me prioritize my list. We went through my weekly “deliverables” or stuff I had to get done and started figuring a rhythm. The fog was lifting. Our conversation was refining how we both looked at my week and brought clarity to what was expected. As I’ve worked my list has grown but now I have a frame of reference about what is important and what’s ok to get done while I’m watching Stranger Things.

The talks I have with my wife are a little different. They are much more seasonal. We go through seasons where heading to a friends house to watch football is cool and no big deal and then another season when it’s better to just be home and relaxing together. We don’t have kids yet and I know that season will bring different priorities for our family. Our natural tendency is to do what we find comfortable and relaxing but those activities end up becoming pressure points if our family isn’t bought in. Fight for openness and honesty in your marriage. It is better.

Plates drop. That’s life. So when stuff gets turned in late or not at all, move past that feeling of guilt or hiding and make wise decisions. Bring other people in and refine your decision making. Prioritize what’s actually important not just urgent and get better.

Karl Peterson

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