Queen of Everything
A few weeks ago, I went through my quarterly practice of updating my resume and LinkedIn (side note: this is something EVERYONE should do. Have a current resume, have a current LinkedIn. You never know when something will come up. Always take that coffee meeting!) As I sat there listing out all of my activities, office duties and the things I do just for funsies I realized: I might actually be doing pretty much everything, and to be honest, it's kind of exhausting.
For most of my career, I have worked in early-stage startups or within innovation, a path that has allowed me to learn different skills and wear many different hats. I've always loved this aspect of the industry. If you want to learn a specific skill, you can raise your hand. You can find mentors and people who want to teach you. The flip side to this upside, however, is when you wear too many hats it can lead to many adverse outcomes such as employee burnout or deadlines simply not being met. Simply put: No one can do it all. Something sometimes has to give.
I recently heard of a theory called 'drop the ball,' distilled down it equates to it's okay sometimes to drop that ball, it's okay to sometimes not fully accomplish everything because you are doing way too much. This resonated with me for various reasons. I am a perfectionist at heart. I like to say I have done my best and given everything a full 110% of my being. Because of this, I often find myself working long hours into the night, trying to bite off a bit too much and even hustling to the point where I'm doing nothing well. I then proceed to get down on myself because I didn't accomplish this or that project and I feel guilty that I've let other people down. It's a vicious cycle where nobody wins.
Dropping the ball doesn't mean letting others down. In fact, I'd like to do away with that title and refer to it instead as passing the baton. Dropping the ball comes with a whole slew of negative connotations whereas passing the baton reminds me of a relay race. If you work within a team you are all running this race together; sometimes you are ahead, sometimes you are behind. It is up to you to lean on your teammates to help you when you are behind and drowning and vice versa. I volunteer my time within an organization that puts this into practice reasonably well. Because we all have 50 hour + full-time jobs, it can be challenging to accomplish everything, especially since no one within our organization is paid. We look to each other to achieve our goals and ensure if someone doesn't have bandwidth someone else is picking up the slack.
While this all sounds fine and dandy in theory how can you put this into action without feeling like you are passing the buck. One tool that I found to be helpful is to leverage standup meetings, and implement something called Daily Wins, Learnings and Goals. At the beginning of each day, you take a few moments to list out what you won at the day before, what you learned the day before and then what your main goal is for that day. For example:
Win: I published a blog last week despite all of my work travel.
Learning: No matter how hard you try, you cannot win them all.
Goal: Publish a blog this week. I have lots of travel this week, so if someone could source images for me, that would be great.
What this does is shows others where you have achieved your goal, what you learned and then what your next goal is. When mapping out these goals, this is where you can ask for support. In the example above, I'm outlying what I want to do, tell people what my blocker is and then just asking where I can pass the baton. Chances are someone else on the team will have some bandwidth to take on that part of the project for me, and together we can all achieve the team's goals.
Passing the baton means you don't have to do it all; it is unreasonable to expect someone to be able to do everything. This is a learning that took me a long time to learn and to accept. Some people will naturally be able to pick this up and run with it. Others (myself included) will struggle, lean into that struggle and figure out how you can learn and move forward with your career.