A Juggler’s Guide to Staying in Balance at Work and Home
By Jon Wee and Owen Morse
often feel like a juggler, trying to balance all the different
responsibilities of your life, you’re not alone. Between work
demands, home and family obligations, interests and hobbies, community
involvement, and personal/professional development pursuits, many
people feel that they have too many balls in the air at once. And
unfortunately, the situation is only getting worse.
the proliferation of PDAs, cell phones, and other technologies, we
often have no escape from the barrage of intrusions: clients calling
after hours, the boss assigning yet another project, and friends
needing help…now. People expect us to be always reachable at a
moment’s notice. For many, the very tools that were supposed to make
our lives easier have only made us more stressed.
bad is the problem? Well, a recent study of more than 50,000 employees
from a variety of manufacturing and service organizations found that
two out of every five employees are dissatisfied with the balance
between their work and their personal lives. That means for many
people, their work life and home life aren’t co-existing
harmoniously, and people feel the stresses associated with being out
all your juggling balls come crashing down around you, follow some
from…where else…the world of juggling! After all, if professional
jugglers like ourselves can balance
chain saws, flaming torches, and butcher knives without a scratch, we
can certainly teach others a
thing or two about balance. Following are some secrets from the world
of juggling that apply to anyone’s life.
1. Allow yourself to focus on one thing at a time (or, pay attention to
the chain saw): During juggling routines, a juggler must pay
attention to many different things—the items he or she is juggling,
the speed in which the items are moving in the air, the size and
weight of each item, etc. However, there are certain times or certain
objects that demand all the juggler’s attention at once—such as a
buzzing chain saw falling into their hands.
thing happens in everyday life. There are times when you’re swamped
with work, for example, and for a large part of your day you have to
focus on work, not on your kids, your vacation, your finances, etc.
When that time comes, don’t fight it. Allow it to happen, knowing
that you’ll have to focus on something else exclusively at another
time. If necessary, arrange your day so you have that focused time.
Tell others your schedule so they know they can’t disrupt you during
that time. You may even have to leave the office early or turn off
your cell phone. Do what you must to keep your focus on the item at
hand. By doing so, you’ll be more effective when you later address
the other areas of your life. And you’ll avoid a nasty mishap with
that chain saw!
2. Focus a little bit on everything at once (or, keep all the plates
spinning): When a juggler is spinning plates, he or she must focus
on and tend to all the plates at the same time. If the juggler were to
only focus on one spinning plate, all the others would quickly come
life is a lot like plate spinning. You know how it goes: your
child’s school is on the phone, the repair man is at the front door,
your boss is calling on your cell phone, and now the meal you were
cooking on the stove has caught fire. You have to jump from one thing
to another just to keep the fires out (literally). The problem is that
many people don’t know how to spin several plates or juggle numerous
balls at once. Then, when they have to because life demands it, they
get overwhelmed. That’s when we feel out of balance. Therefore,
practice multi-tasking on a regular basis. Your ability to juggle
multiple things at once, when necessary, will actually help you feel
more balanced and relaxed during times of stress. And it’ll prevent
you from breaking too many plates!
3. Simplify wherever you can (or, know your juggling limits): Just
because a juggler can juggle five balls effortlessly doesn’t mean he
can juggle ten balls. And just because someone can juggle flaming
torches doesn’t mean she can also juggle chain saws. Every juggler
too, has limits. Look back over your calendar or daily planner and
analyze where you spend your time. Get rid of any unnecessary
commitments, or at least put something on the back burner temporarily.
If you’re involved in too many committees or trying to learn too
many hobbies, or if your children are a part of too many after school
activities, you’ll need to decide what’s not necessary so you can
simplify and get in balance.
that some cuts may only be temporary. Do a regular evaluation of your
time so you can see when you can take something new on and when you
have to put things aside. Too many people today get overcommitted to
too many things, and then they wonder why they have no life balance.
Therefore, know what you really can do given your time constraints and
get rid of the rest, at least for now. Your juggling will have fewer
drops once you simplify your pattern.
4. Don’t stress when interruptions occur (or, improvise when the
spotlight is on): In the entertainment business, things change on
a dime. For example, you may be committed to your daughter’s piano
recital tomorrow night, but then The Tonight Show calls and wants you
as a guest…tomorrow night. In that case, you may have to drop
everything, change your plans, and take the lucky breaks as they come.
Or, during a performance, a juggler may have to improvise and make
some changes to his or her routine…while in front of a live
Tonight Show may not be calling you, but last-minute changes like
these happen to everyone. For instance, you may set aside your entire
morning to finish that big project. Ten minutes into your work, you
get a call from your child’s school saying that your son is sick and
you have to pick him up immediately. When that happens, accept the
interruption and don’t get upset. Feeling angry, resentful, or
annoyed by the disruption, whatever it may be, will only cause you to
feel more stress than necessary. Realize that “things happen” to
everyone. Being nimble and able to change gears on a moment’s notice
will keep you in balance, no matter what happens. And sometimes those
improvised moments turn out to be the best part of the show.
Keep All Your Balls in the Air: Regardless of your profession or
life circumstances, always remember that all areas of your life are
important, so you need to find a good balance. After all, it doesn’t
do any good to let your marriage fall apart because you spend too much
time or work. Nor does it make sense to get fired from work because
you spend too much time at home. You need to allocate the necessary
time for fun, for family, for work, for exercise, for hobbies, and for
anything else you want in your life…and then let all the unnecessary
“stuff” go. By finding that much needed balance between all
elements of your life, you’ll soon be a master juggler who can
handle whatever comes your way.
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Wee and Owen Morse.
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