Thought for the Day: “Dr p the Ball”
If you are a woman – especially a “successful” woman – you likely expect yourself to do it all – at home and at work, and to do it with a smile and homemade cupcakes to send to your child’s class. These expectations lead to 60-70 + hour work weeks, kids who are on their own much of the time – or glued to electronics, and a husband you barely see.
“Those of us committed to our careers and our families, who are unable or don’t want to pause or slow down our career pursuits, end up more exhausted, stressed out, depleted, and sick than any previous generation of women,” says Tiffany Dufu in her book, dr p the ball: achieving more by doing less.
Gloria Steinem notes, “Drop the Ball is more than a personal memoir; it’s also a manifesto. I want women to know that their individual problem is a collective one, too. The research is unequivocal: the most complex problems are best solved by a diverse group of people. Yet the highest levels of leadership are glutted with the same type: male, white, straight, able-bodied, and wealthy. This has been true since the dawn of our country two and a half centuries ago. Don’t get me wrong. Like many of our founding fathers, today’s corporate decision makers are accomplished, smart, and well meaning. It’s just that now that it’s the twenty-first century, their lens is too narrow to address gigantic problems like economic inequality, climate change, terrorism, or the decline of America’s educational system. If we care about these problems, we have to care about the women whose help we need to solve them. . . . We need a Drop the Ball movement–not just to prevent working mothers from crashing but to fast-forward history” (9).
Even if you now do not have young children and are in the middle of your career, Dufu provides useful models and ideas for everyone stressed out by all we feel we must do.
Her definition of “Drop the Ball” is – “to release unrealistic expectations of doing it all and engage others to achieve what matters most to us, deepening our relationships and enriching our lives” (xv).
Dufu learned “the importance of focusing attention on the areas where we bring the most value . . . instead of on the areas where we might be better than others because of experience alone. . . . What you do is less important than the difference you make. I could spend my entire life checking off items on my to-do list, and in the end, it would make very little difference. I didn’t want my epitaph to read, ‘She got a lot of stuff done.’ Instead, I had to figure out how I, and I alone, could make a difference–and this was as true for my homelife as it was for my professional one. Where could I be most useful in order to achieve the things that mattered most? . . .
This is the Law of Comparative Advantage: “just because you’re better at doing something doesn’t mean you doing it is the most productive use of your time” (94). . . .
“Prior to my comparative advantage realization, my to-do list looked like this: grocery run, schedule preschool tours, pickup dry cleaning, call Uncle Kenny re: surgery, order Lisa’s shower gift, marinate chicken, review Seattle flooring estimate, get Kofi [her son] umbrella stroller. All these tasks had to be fit into my day, on top of then hours at the office and whatever was on my professional to-do list.
Here’s what happened to my list when I put each item to the comparative advantage test, asking myself if I was working toward my highest and best use by doing the task in question:
Grocery run: No. I could love Kojo [her husband], raise conscious global citizens [her children], and advance women and girls [her job] without going grocery shopping.
Schedule preschool tours: No. The environment where Kofi will spend nearly nine hours a day, five days a week will definitely shape him. To raise a conscious global citizen, I definitely need to attend the tours, but I guess someone else could schedule them.
Pick up dry cleaning: No.
Call Uncle Kenny re: surgery: Yes, I need to do this one. It’s meaningful for my uncle to hear his niece’s voice checking in on him. I want Kofi to know how important family is. Maintaining this relationship is critical. Plus, delegating this task to someone else would be callous.” . . .
Out of the eight items on my original to-do list, only one of them was critical for me to complete myself in order to accomplish what mattered most to me. Only one represented my highest and best use. To be clear, the other tasks on the to-do list still needed to be attended to, and I wasn’t sure how they would all get done. What was different was my perspective: now I was certain I would not be the one to do them all. Instead of eight things I absolutely had to accomplish to be a good worker, wife, and mom, there was now only one task for me to accomplish and seven that someone else could do. For the queen of domesticity with a bad case of HCD [Home Control Disease], this change in thinking was revolutionary! “((95-96).
Also Dufu uses her own experience to model how to “Delegate with Joy” – to speak not just to the ears but to the heart – and more.
Especially for those of you exhausted from all you are expected to do, please look at your to-do lists with new eyes. Are the things you have on that list for tomorrow, for example, really critical in accomplishing what matters most to you? Drop those extra balls!
Images of balls from – https://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/drop_the_ball.html
P.S. Dr p the Ball is listed in the Business Insider article “Eight Books to Read Before You Get Married” http://www.businessinsider.com/books-to-read-before-marriage-2017-4/#happier-at-home-by-gretchen-rubin-1 Check out the other recommendations too.
And I would add to that list The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate – by Gary Chapman.
Even if you are married, it’s not too late to learn good strategies for living and loving. Good luck.