Do you have a feeling you have too many balls in the air at the same time? Are the everyday life pressures keeping you from your own personal goals? Do you feel there’s always something that requires your attention that distracts you from the things you are trying to improve?
Sounds like ‘juggling’, the activity we women are sometimes almost proud of. Or at least we have decided to own it so profoundly that it surely comes up in every female executive interview (‘how do you juggle family and work?’) and dinner conversation between friends.
I was recently at a lovely dinner with seven brilliant and bright ladies who all manage to combine meaningful career and family life. After hearing my story of running one company, building a women’s network and doing a tech start-up, whilst spending time with my husband and five year old twin boys, one woman asked me how on earth do I manage to juggle all of this?
In that very moment when I answered I realised what the secret is, I’ve stopped juggling. Until recently I was very stressed out thinking I should do all of these things at the same time. That didn’t work. A couple of weeks ago I got a mild panic attack! But like any set back or obstacle in life, it thought me an important lesson.
I’m not supposed to keep all the balls in the air at the same time. I’m supposed to push each ball separately at my own phase.
I’ve learned to be fully present at what I’m doing and I don’t try to do more than one thing at the same time. This means that when I’m with my kids, I’m with my kids. I don’t try to write emails or send Tweets at the same time. I fully enjoy my kids company.
And when I’m working I will let them know that ‘mummy has to work now and doesn’t want to be interrupted.’ It works because I’ve explained that if they want to sit at the front of the plane any day soon, they will have to let me work.
Here’s 8 tactics that have helped me to stop juggling:
You have to give up part of the workload and delegate to others. We have an au pair who lives with us. Yes, it felt odd at the start to have someone stay with us, but I find it’s a small price to pay for a clean kitchen and flexibility with childcare.
2) Trust others
Once you’ve delegated tasks, It’s important to trust others to do the job. They may not do it the same way as you’d do it, but not all jobs need to be completed to the highest standards.
3) Focus on one thing
When you are focused on a task, don’t let yourself be distracted by other unfinished tasks. The world (and especially a family household!) is full of unfinished tasks. Most can remain unfinished (at least for now).
4) Create habits
My weekly schedule looks pretty much the same from week to week. I’ve dedicated time slots for all three businesses and the schedule repeats. Apart from standard weekly meetings I don’t take many meetings. I know I have to allocate time for getting things actually done.
5) Say ‘no’
I let un-critical things fall by the wayside. I’ve long given up perfection on things that don’t really matter (like keeping the playroom tidy) and I’ve stopped doing things because I think I should.
I wrote a post on this earlier. The idea is to hold tasks until a dedicated time slot and do all similar tasks together. Stops you from working reactively and bouncing to every impulse or request thrown at you.
If you got so far as to focus on only one task, and have blocked all distractions, it’s important then to capture that moment to complete what you started. Get that one ‘ball’ over a finish line so you can ad an item to your ‘Done List‘. It can be a sub-section of a larger project but important thing is to finish what you are doing to avoid juggling.
I’ve visualised ‘focusing on one ball’ as opposed to ‘juggling many balls in the air’ in my head. This mental exercise has helped me to appreciate everything I do more and not pile up unnecessary (=unimportant) tasks. I try to ‘let go’ as much as I can.
Do you find ‘juggling’ a problem? What methods or tactics have you used to stop ‘juggling’ or to reduce stress?