RPS #56 — The Art of Gracefully Dropping the Ball: How to Let People Down Without Losing Their Respect

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No matter how well we plan, organize, and delegate, sometimes we drop the ball. Sometimes we let people down. Sometimes we fail to live up to our commitments. And sometimes we make matters worse by failing to communicate. This can lead to broken trust and people losing respect for you. So, how do we drop the ball gracefully? Today I’m going to give you five ways.


00:00 – Introduction
03:10 – Why we drop the ball
07:33 – 1. Don’t Overcommit to Begin With
10:27 – 2. Develop a System to Track Your Commitments
12:11 – 3. Communicate Early
15:30 – 4. Be 100% Honest
20:47 – 5. Ask for Forgiveness
23:45 – 6. Learn from Your Mistakes
25:56 – Believe the gospel when we drop the ball


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Welcome to the redeeming productivity show. This is the podcast that helps Christians get more done and get it done like Christians. And I’m your host, Reagan Rose. Well, I’m here this is Episode 56. And I’m sitting here I got a ice cold Lacroix. Well, this is a Kroger brand. So, seltzer water, zero calories, naturally flavored lemon, listen to this. Just went all over my computer. It’s okay. It’s okay. Just a few droplets. Well, got another episode for you. So we’re gonna be talking today about the art of gracefully dropping the ball, how to let people down without losing their respect. Ooh, intriguing title. I know. I wrote it. And so here’s the deal. No matter how well you plan, no matter how well you organize, no matter how well you delegate, sometimes you drop the ball. Sometimes you let people down. Sometimes you fail to live up to your commitments and your promises. But sometimes, talking to myself here, we can make matters worse, when we fail to communicate when those things happen. And this can lead to broken trust can lead to people losing respect for you. And the question is, how do we drop the ball gracefully? Well, today, I’m going to give you five ways that you can drop the ball gracefully, and not lose people’s respect, not lose their trust, when you have to break a commitment. So we’ll talk about that in just a second. Before we do just a quick plug for the newsletter, if you don’t get my bi weekly newsletter, you should it on Wednesdays I talk about things that have come out on the blog about new podcast episodes, and just some other things that I’m thinking. And that’s really the only place you can get that just it’s a little more. I was gonna say unhinged musings, but that’s not the word I’m looking for. Though it may be more accurate, that’s gonna say less, you know, rehearse less polish. This is kind of what I’m thinking about in regard to Christianity and productivity that week. And then on Fridays, you get my Reagan’s roundup feature with just as five links from around the web, to help you on your journey to becoming a more productive Christian. So if you’re not on the newsletter, you should sign up. It’s redeemedproductivity.com/newsletter. And also now when you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free morning routine planner PDF. It’s something I’ve pulled together, that kind of will walk you through the steps for creating a morning routine for yourself that involves things like Bible study, and exercise and prayer. And just if you walk through the steps, you’ll have yourself a handy dandy routine in the morning. So check that out the redeeming productivity newsletter at redeemingproductivity.com/newsletter. And also if you’re interested in supporting my work producing this podcast, these videos, blog posts, etc. You can do so on patreon.com/redeemingprod, there’ll be a link in the description if you want more info on that. Okay, let’s get into the meat of things. Let’s get talking about dropping the ball gracefully. So here’s the thing. I really hate letting people down. I do. And I think that there’s I think that there’s a problem there and motivations, which I’ll talk about in a future episode on fear of man. But I really hate that feeling of letting someone down. And I think that in large part, that’s what drives my interest in productivity. Sometimes, obviously, my more nobler reasons are that I do indeed want to glorify God with my life. But what really made me start thinking about how I can be more organized, how I can track my tasks better. The big thing that was motivating me was I just kept dropping the ball, people would ask me to do something, I’d commit to doing it. And then I’d forget. And so that’s what got me into learning about how can I do this stuff better. And I do believe that this is part of being a Christian is we need to be people of our word. God is a God of his word. He always fulfills his promises. He never tells a lie. His yes is always yes is no is always No. And we as image bearers are to likewise be people of our word. And so when you commit to do something, that’s a very serious thing. You You want your yes to be yes. And you know, to be no. But as you know, sometimes it can’t be helped. Sometimes you really did want to do something you said you were going to do, but through maybe an error on your part, or circumstances that are outside of your control. Sometimes you let people down. Sometimes you can’t fulfill that commitment. Sometimes you drop the ball. But since I want people to trust me, I want people to know that they can rely on me that can be devastating. You know, like, you want to be a person known as a person of your word, not just for your own, you know, personal self worth Back to your own reputation. But because you know that you represent Christ, you’re a representative of God, you’re an ambassador, for Christ, it says. So you want to be a person who’s known as a person of your word, person, Person person. I think what maybe is ironic, I guess is that sometimes that fear of letting people down when things, you realize that you’re not gonna be able to feel a commitment, sometimes that fear can actually lead to you making the situation worse. And what I mean is, you might try to find a way to work a bunch of overtime or something, or through the night to make up for a mistake, or for being double booked or double committed. And, you know, trying to make sure no one finds out that, that you didn’t manage your time well or something. But the problem with that is it leads to this like vicious cycle of burnout, where you’re constantly trying to fulfill these different commitments, and finding yourself falling short, and then trying to make up for them and then falling short and other commitments, and round and round we go, that is not a Mulberry Bush, you want to be circling weasel? Hmm. I don’t think any of that’s an expression. But it is now because that’s how expressions are coined on podcasts. So and even worse, I think when it comes to letting people down and dropping the ball, we can even be tempted to lie sometimes, or bend the truth or just leave out some details to kind of cover over our failure. Or we might double down on our promises, we might say, well, I’ll make up I’ll make it up to you. But that actually, again, it can make things worse, and leads you to dropping the ball over and over again. And as a cereal ball dropper, myself, probably probably not what I should call that. But as someone who is who has done this multiple times, and is the reason I’m trying day in and day out to become a little bit more efficient, with my time a little bit more productive, a little bit better. at keeping track of the things I said I would do and making sure I actually have time to do them. It’s because I am. I don’t want to let people down. I want to I don’t want to break their trust. I don’t want to lose the respect. And I want to honor Christ by being a person of my word. So here are five ways maybe there’ll be six but five ish ways on how you can learn the art of gracefully dropping the ball so that you don’t lose people’s respect or let them down or break their trust.

1. Don’t Overcommit to Begin With

So the first reason is this. Can you guys hear the Lacroix bubbling? I just love that. It’s like um, the what was that cereal? right in that cereal like it doesn’t exist Rice Krispies, you know, snap, crackle, pop, you can kind of hear the Lacroix. I’ll keep it away from the mics. You don’t have to hear it. I like subtle. If you heard the jokes about Lacroix where it’s like, um, you know, the flavor is not intense. It’s not like sweet. It’s just kind of like hints of flavor. Someone said that Lacroix is like drinking water. And then someone shouts the name of a fruit from another room. That’s what Lacroix tastes like. I thought that was funny. Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh, I was gonna tell you five ways to drop the ball gracefully. The first one in, I think probably the one that gets to the root of the problem, at least, the root of the problem for me, maybe this is same for you is the first reason or the first way to not drop the ball is to not over commit to begin with. I think over commitment can be a source for this kind of thing. Where you you want to say yes to things, you want to be helpful. You want to, you know, do things. And so you promise you say, Oh, yeah, I’ll do that. Let me take care of that for you. But you do that so much that you find that it’s actually too many commitments for you to handle. And no matter how well organized you are, every single one of us has a limit, even though we might try to push it guilty, often guilty of that myself. So I would say the first way that you can drop the ball gracefully, is by not putting yourself into a position where you’re constantly having to drop the ball, because you’ve got too many things on your plate, keep the plate tidy. And this is just the art of learning to say no. This is you know being self aware enough to know your capacity and how much you can do and not to project yourself into the future and assume that the future you is going to have more time than the you right now. You know stuff always comes out life is not as clear as it is when you block it out on paper. So don’t overcommit to begin with. And I think just as a good like practical application to this, keep us thinking calendar. It Doesn’t have to be a stinking calendar, it can just be a normal calendar. But keep a calendar and keep it well. If you don’t want to over commit to stuff, you need to track what you are committed to. And likewise, I actually talked about this in the next one, but track your tasks as well. Unless you know what you’ve said yes to, you aren’t going to know if you have enough time to say yes to more things, if that makes sense. So keeping a rigorous calendar helps you not to over commit to things to begin with.

2. Develop a System to Track Your Commitments

Okay, the second way that you can drop the ball gracefully, when you when you are over committed, is develop a system to track your commitment. So I just mentioned calendars. But the other side of that is a task tracking system. And I’m surprised in this day and age how many people still don’t do this that I talked to. And so I’m not just talking about a to do list, I’m talking about a way of tracking the things that you have said you’re going to do. If you have not read the book, getting things done by David Allen, I would commend it to you. It’s a simple systematic approach to how you can kind of capture things as they come into your life and make sure that they actually get done. So you’re not constantly trying to remember in your head, all the things that you’ve said you’re going to do. It’s a great book. And many, many software tools have sprung up around the concept of getting things done, I use OmniFocus. To do this is really popular things. You can do this with a bullet journal or just a simple notebook, but having a just a dedicated space, where you track what are the what are the things, what are the task, what do I need to get done today and tomorrow, things like that. That will go miles to make it so that you don’t drop the ball as often. And again, number one applies here to again, don’t over commit to things. But if you have visibility on what you’re committed to, you’re going to be much more likely to not drop the ball on things. And also transition that will help you to know if you are about to drop the ball on something so that you can communicate.

3. Communicate Early

And so that’s the third way that you can drop the ball gracefully. When you know that you’re going to break a commitment. Tell people tell the person or people or boss or friend or whoever in advance, you know, if you something comes up and you know you had plans to go have dinner with some friends or something, and don’t just like ghost him for one. But don’t also like 10 minutes before you’re going to meet at your local Chili’s to get some pain yo poppers and a triple Dipper. Don’t be like oh guy, sorry, I can’t make it. Especially if you knew further in advance of that. And this is again, this is something that I I am guilty of myself is you know, most people will forgive a broken promise or a failure to complete something as intended. As long as you chest tell them as soon as you know about it. Do you know what I mean? Like people understand, like, nobody’s perfect. Nobody gets 100% of the things done that they say they’re going to get done. Like, things come up, you know, emergencies. And even just like foolish things where you double booked yourself. The trick is, tell them when soon as you know. So as soon as you know that you goofed a call a text and email cause a hugely long way to not just save face, but also honor the person that you know, you’re about to let down. And if you know that there is even the potential for dropping the ball on something so you’ve committed to some project and, and the deadline for it is coming up. And you know, man, it’s, it’s gonna be tight. I don’t know, if I’m gonna make this deadline. Don’t just clam up and pretend that everything’s gonna be okay. This is a great time for you to tell whoever’s in charge. But I mean, I find this helpful. I manage people and I really appreciate when they over communicate to me when there’s an expectation for something to be done. And they tell me, Hey, this and this and this came up. I think we’re still gonna get it done on time, but I’m not sure I want you to know, I so appreciate that. Because then I’m able to communicate that and I and I’m able to set my expectations or reset my expectations, rather than being surprised when I thought everything was going fine. Because last time we talked was a week ago, dude, I mean, so communicate early, communicate often. As soon as you know that you’re that you’re dropping the ball on something, or even before if you know there’s the potential to it. So communicate simple enough, isn’t it? Except for it’s kind of embarrassing, right? I think this is the reason that I struggle with this is you again you want you want to please people you want you want to come through you want to be trustworthy. But you kind of don’t want people to see your flaws, your mistakes, especially if you, especially if you have a podcast about how to be productive, and then you drop the ball on something because you weren’t productive on it, you’re not I mean, like, there’s a little bit of a blow to your ego to your pride. And so then you don’t communicate. But again, it just makes things worse. So when when you when you know that you can drop the ball, communicate, communicate, communicate.

4. Be 100% Honest

So on the subject of the art of gracefully dropping the ball here is the fourth way that you can drop the ball gracefully and not break people’s trust or lose their respect for you. And that is be 100% honest, be 100% honest. Here’s the deal. excuses are really not helpful. Um, even if they’re true, like, I think there is a difference. Personally, I make a difference. In my mind, I’ve two different categories for excuse and an explanation for something. But an excuse is, as I define it, it’s when you are basically trying to pass the blame. It might not be to another person, it might be the circumstances, but an excuse has these overtones of not taking ownership of the problem to say, Oh, I, you know, I almost got it done. But, but yeah, then then My car broke down, or I almost got it done. But then X, Y, and Z happened to me, you know what I mean? And that is not that helpful. And I just, again, speaking, as you know, somebody who manages people, I would, I don’t mind you, I mean, I understand that things come up, and I want to hear an explanation. But I don’t want to hear an excuse. I don’t want to hear a hint in there of It’s not my fault. And it may not be your fault. But what I mean is people appreciate it. When you take ownership and you’re 100% honest. And so something maybe your car breaks down and you can’t get to an appointment on time. You know, take ownership of that, be 100% honest, tell them exactly what happens. Or if you’re running late, don’t don’t do that thing where Oh, GPS says five minutes, but you haven’t like even, you know, left your house yet. Be 100% honest about it. That is going to go miles even when you mess up, even when things don’t go your way. If the aim is that, Hey, I know I’m letting this person down. But long term, I don’t want to break their trust, I want them to trust me. Well, a great way to have people trust you is to not lie to them. And mainly, again, be extremely, extremely honest, hundred percent honest about why you had that epic blunder. And maybe even if it’s in a work setting, what you could have done differently, you know, practically saying, Yeah, you know, what, I, I could have had this, I could have worked on this sooner. I remember this coming up all the time, like in school, if you guys ever have teachers like this, where you come and you ask for an extension on a paper or some project and you say, Oh, yeah, you know, well, I had all these other things going on. And I kind of pulled an all nighter, and then my cat got sick and was throwing up everywhere. And you know, my dog had worms. And he was you just have so many pets, and they have so many medical conditions. But like, what does the teacher say? The teacher says, Well, you How long did you know this paper was? Do? You say? Well since the beginning of the semester, and they say well, how long did you have to work on it? Well, lots and lots of weeks. When did you start last night right before fluffy started hacking up along? And then they say sorry, paper still do, dude. I mean, like, that’s pretty mean. It’s not mean it’s holding the line. And I get it, I get why teachers do that. And it is helpful, especially when you know that the students making an excuse. But that’s what I mean about taking ownership of it is instead to say I should have started sooner, we could have finished this earlier. You know, I should have left the house earlier, I knew it was potential that this thing would happen to keep me from this appointment. And I should have told you just be 100% on it honest and take 100% ownership, people will appreciate that. And then long term that trust is still maintained. And I think the on the subject of honesty, I talked a little bit about excuses how you can blame circumstances. And I and I mentioned briefly that you can use it excuses, blaming someone else. That’s horrible if you think about it, and sometimes that’s your default. If you’re trying to save face, you kind of maybe don’t come out and say it but you kind of intimate that. Well, so and so didn’t do XY and Z. And you know, so yeah, we really should have done better. And you know, I mean there’s like this half apology, but really you’re just like blaming somebody else. That is that’s pretty rough, especially if you were the one responsible for doing the thing. It’s it’s your problem. Even if somebody else did let you down. You should have been on top of it and why If you’re kind of hinting that it’s someone else’s fault, when it wasn’t, you are like bearing false witness, which is a violation of the law of God, you’re blaming somebody else for your mistake that you do not want to be doing, take ownership for it, be 100% honest, there’s consequences take them. But in the end, you keep your integrity intact. And you will have been a great witness for Christ in the workplace and a great image bearer for him, wherever you are.

5. Ask for Forgiveness

Okay, so we’re talking about the art of gracefully dropping the ball, how to let people down without losing their respect. And so far, we’ve looked at five ways of doing that. The first is not to over commit to begin with second was develop a system to track your commitments. Third is communicate early and fourth was be 100%. honest, we hear this, here’s the fifth way that you can drop the ball gracefully, when you’re breaking a commitment and not lose people’s trust or respect. And that is the simple act of asking for forgiveness. If someone trusted you to do something, whether it be as simple as again, you know, making an appointment on time, you know, for coffee or something, or if it’s in the workplace, and it’s the the fulfilling a project in the time that you committed to, or even in the home with your spouse or with your kids is you said you do something, and then you don’t. And even if the circumstances outside of your control, whatever the reason, ask for forgiveness. You promised to do something, you said you would do something, and you did it. Ask for their forgiveness. Apologize to them, not in that weird kind of way, you know, where you don’t actually take responsibility? You say, I’m sorry, for the way that made you feel. I’m very sorry for the way you reacted to that. I’m sorry that you were mad at the car for it breaking down on me. You know, just take responsibility and ask for forgiveness. Say, I’m so sorry. I said that I would do that. And I didn’t. And then mega right. It’s not hard, except for to the bride, simply to ask for forgiveness. I will offer one caveat on this point of asking for forgiveness. And that is simply that sometimes this is the only thing we do. Do you know what I mean? Like if you are a serial ball dropper, there’s that term again, I cannot, I don’t want to say that anymore. But if you’re somebody who who constantly, you know, or repeatedly has failed to meet commitments, apologies wear thin real fast. And it is the only thing you do. And you think that it makes every it smooths everything over every single time. And you don’t actually take steps to rectify maybe your poor planning or organizational habits, or your you know how much you commit to, you’re going to actually make steps to fix that. It’s not long before, people are like, Oh, they just don’t do things. And then they come and say they’re sorry afterwards for it not working out. You’re gonna lose people’s respect, you’re gonna lose their trust and can be a poor witness, if that’s your Mo. But what I am saying here is that when you genuinely mess up, take full responsibility and apologize for it. But then also, you know, as someone who, who genuinely wants to do it right next time, go back and make the steps figure out how do I not over commit? How can I track my commitments better? How can I make sure these kind of things don’t happen in the future? And be serious about that. And when people see that change in you, they will you’ll have their respect, you’ll learn it and they, they won’t look down on you just because you made a mistake once. And that’s it’s important as a Christian, that’s important. It is.

6. Learn from Your Mistakes

And okay, here’s the bonus one. I’m gave you five ways to drop the ball gracefully. We’re recommitment, disappoint someone, but to do it in a way that you don’t lose the respect of their trust. And I just would say one last one. And then it’s just learn from your mistakes. It’s going to happen. You are going to drop the ball. You’re going to fail to meet a deadline, complete a promise, fulfill a requirement of you. It’s going to happen. But if you can pause hafter, that situation and look and try to figure out, Okay, what did I What could I be doing different in the future to make sure that doesn’t happen again? That moment that time you spend self reflecting, maybe you’re examining your own mindset towards things like I’ve mentioned fear man a couple times, it’s something I’ve been thinking about about why is it to overcommit Reagan, it’s because I care too much. I think that what people think about me, and so how can I set that at the heart level, so that in the future, I honor people by saying yes to the things that I really can do, and not bring up people’s expectations that I’m going to do something for them. When I know that I don’t really have the capacity to do it. Another part of the self exam is looking at your systems. You know, I mentioned I think in the intro to the last podcast that I had like a breakdown, basically, in my productivity system, one crisis kind of blew the whole thing up. Well, I had to spend a good probably half a day, tearing down my system for tracking tasks, and rebuilding it again and re kind of thinking about, okay, what went wrong? How can I fix this? How can I tweak this so that it’s a little bit more resilient to crisis. And so I did that. And hopefully the fruit of that will be that that type of thing won’t happen again, or at least I’ll have the right steps in place to mitigate a disaster from messing up my whole week, or causing kind of a chain reaction of not fulfilling commitments, see what I mean? So learn from your mistakes, learn from them, improve, and keep going. And guys, listen, if you’re a Christian, if you’ve placed your faith in Jesus Christ, if you’ve been united with Him by faith, then you are under God’s grace, which means you can fail and fail even boldly, you will make mistakes, you will fail to fulfill things. And I think one of the problems that can happen, or maybe a better way to put it is, is this way is that productivity is something that people that are given to perfectionism, are kind of drawn to sometimes and so I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of you listening would be self described perfectionists. And perfectionism is, is is in Christians, a denial of grace, right? It’s a denial that you are imperfect that you are in need of God’s help. And I think reminding yourself of the gospel, reminding yourself that you You are not perfect, you are not God is so helpful when you do drop the ball in a situation like this. It helps you be more honest about your own shortcomings with others and with God. And only then are you able to assess what went wrong, apologize, seek forgiveness if you messed up in some way, and then move on and keep going trying to do better next time in Christ strength. Well, guys, that’s all I have for you this week. Thank you so much for listening and or watching. Appreciate you do check out that newsletter in the description. Oh, and if you are a Patreon supporter, head on over to Patreon. Now that the episodes over, I have a little clip on there that I made for you about an app that has really been changing the way I read Kindle books, and I think you will be interested in it. So check out that clip. And if you’re not a Patreon supporter, you can join and get access to these bonus clips as well. The link for that is in the description. And I will see you again here next week. But until I do remember this that in whatever you do, do it well and do it all to the glory of God.

Join the discussion

  • Hello Reagan,
    I found your website/podcast through my desire to learn more about using Notion (a new app for me). Your stance and heart to use your time wisely for furthering your effectiveness for Christ was an attraction that caused me to listen further. So my comment here is to nudge you towards your already stated goal, to ‘save time’ and teach others. As I listened, I found myself wishing you would use less words in your podcast or rather to be more concise….maybe less smalltalk. This actually caused me to turn off the podcast and probably miss some gems. My husband of 43 years recently survived a severe stroke leaving his left side with absolutely no sensation. As you can imagine this event pivoted my life in a major way. With my new attempts as a self-employed individual to support us, plus be a caregiver, plus forgo seeing our grandchildren, reducing my farm chores, etc, etc….time seemed to evaporate. Thus my hunt for tools to make my efforts more effective and use my time wisely. I pray the Lord will bless your efforts in teaching others and this comment will be taken with all good intentions for your success. :-)

    • Thank you so much for the feedback, Carla! It’s always helpful to hear constructive criticism. It is gratefully received! I’ve been thinking about that very thing lately. In fact, if you get a chance to listen to episode 66, I’d love to hear what you think of that format. I’ve been experimenting with tightening the episodes up a lot more and trying to make them as content-packed as possible without wasting any time.

      Thanks again, and bless you!