Falling Through the Cracks


What do to when you’ve forgotten to complete a task at work

It’s just a week after the Match and you are busy credentialing interns, residents or fellows, preparing their onboarding & orientation, working on promotion of your current residents/fellows, and oh yeah, planning a graduation ceremony! When you suddenly think to yourself, did I reserve a graduation venue? At this, the busiest time of the year, the idea of something falling through the cracks is not foreign to any of us. But what do you do when you’ve forgotten to accomplish a task or were so overwhelmed that you were unable to meet a deadline? By following these 3 steps, you will be able to successfully navigate through almost any missed deadlines or forgotten tasks as work.

Step 1: Remain Calm!

Before we discuss any kind of solution, I would strongly advise you to remain calm. Our natural default is to panic, but you cannot give into those impulses, you need to keep yourself together. The calmer you are the easier it'll be for you to find a solution to your problem. If you are having trouble remaining present and calm, take a moment, deep breathing often does the trick. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply and exhale slowly, repeat this step 5 or 6 times or until you feel that you are present and able to concentrate.

Step 2: Is there a quick fix?

Now you need to calmly assess the situation and ascertain if there is a way you can fix the problem quickly on your own. In the case of a forgotten reservation, call the venue and see if the date is still available and if you can still reserve it. If the venue is not available, try to quickly arrange a list of alternative venues.

Step 3: All hands on deck!

If no quick fix is available, it’s most likely time for you to bring the issue to a peer, supervisor or program director to enlist their help. Do not be afraid to ask for help, sometimes this is the only way to move towards a solution. And sometimes getting input from one or two other people makes a solution more clear and easy to find. When approaching a supervisor, manager or your program director, it is important to (1) be clear about what has happened, do not try to make light of the situation or seem like it is under control if it is not; (2) be apologetic but not overly emotional, it is important to not dwell on blame or excuses, your focus should be on the present and what you can offer right that will help you and other find a solution to this problem.

Continuing with the no venue for graduation scenario, approach your manager and say “I have just realized that no venue was booked for graduation. I want to apologize for this oversight, I don’t know how I missed this. I have tried calling all our previously used venues, and I’ve been unsuccessful in obtaining a venue. I’ve exhausted all my resources and I really need some help and guidance on how I can fix this.”

Now that everything is out in the open, your team can begin working towards a solution.

Moving forward, you should look back at what happened and how it could have been avoided, and then learn from it, so that it doesn’t happen again. What sorts of tools or tracking system could you put in place, to assure that you don’t miss any other deadlines or tasks? When mistakes happen, the best thing you can do, is to look at your mistake as a teachable moment. After all, we are all human and we all make mistakes, bosses and workers alike.


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