Too Many Balls in the Air

Posted by Janice Russell onOctober07,2009

Seen a juggler lately? Usually they start juggling two or three balls and then they add another and another until there is a dizzying swirl of objects flying in a circle around the juggler. Catch & release. Catch & release. At some point, either a ball falls or the juggler will stop because he or she knows that you can only have so many balls up in the air at a time.

In many ways, we are like the juggler. We have jobs, household juggling like organizing time responsibilities, social obligations, volunteer activities, etc. Sometimes it feels like we have so many balls in the air that they will all come crashing down at once and give us a headache! Or maybe we feel like throwing them all up in the air at the same time and rushing into a cave so that we can escape. The crazy thing is that many of us add balls without getting rid of any! This usually results in balls falling more rapidly and possibly rolling away never to be found again. While this may sound like relief, usually it means that we have "dropped the ball" on some responsibility.

So how do you decide which balls to delete from your juggling routine? There are a number of different methods. Usually at this point I start talking about determining goals and then deleting activities that don't meet those goals. Don't groan, you will note that I said "usually". Today I am advocating an alternate idea!

In a blog entry entitled Find Time to Manage Multiple Priorities, Paula Eder ask two very powerful questions:

Question #1: Are there things distracting me that I need to pay brief attention to in order to be able to fully set them aside?

If you are juggling blue, red, green, yellow, and purple balls, you may have to put all of them down and put the yellow ones in another location in order to concentrate on the blue, red, green, and purple ones. The location for the yellow ones may be in a container marked "low priority, complete next month". They may be handed off to someone else who can juggle them more efficiently (delegation). They may even be completely deleted from your collection of juggling balls because they aren't a color you want to juggle anymore. So by paying brief attention to the yellow balls, you can more easily juggle the others.

Question #2: Do I need to find time to clean up and re-prioritize my to do list?

As you have frantically juggled all of your balls, some of them have probably gotten dirty. They have fallen on the floor or on the dirt; they have been touched with gooey hands, etc. In fact, they make look more black, brown or speckled than their original colors. Time to put them in the wash cycle! Put them into a sink filled with bubbly water. They may need to soak for a few minutes. You may need to scrub them a little. Some of them may be "beyond repair" so they can be permanently deleted. The remaining balls may be juggled in a different order. For instance, instead of starting with blue you start with the green balls. You decide to add the purple balls second instead of the red balls, etc. It is okay to juggle the balls in a different order. In fact, sometimes it is better to change the order! Over time situations change and so should priorities.

What one action can you take today to increase your proficiency in juggling?


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