Here's a metaphor to start the New Year: You as juggler, with balls that are made of both rubber and glass. Some will bounce, others will shatter. And you need to the know the difference, as you juggle, juggle, juggle throughout 2018.
The metaphor comes from executive coach Scott Eblin, or more accurately, his clients, who moan about the many balls they have to juggle. Mr. Eblin says three factors seem to be driving these stories. First, we are continually being asked to do more with less. Second, we have the welcome and not-so-welcome ability to do practically everything from our smartphones that used to have to be done at our desks. Third, unless we enforce boundaries, we are instantly available to anyone who has our e-mail address or phone number.
"How do you keep all the balls in the air without dropping something important or driving your health and well-being off a cliff?" he asks in his blog.
He used to stress the importance of recognizing the difference between when something needs to be perfect and when good enough is good enough. But now he is suggesting that you can juggle more balls if you recognize which are rubber and which are glass. "You can drop the rubber balls and usually recover easily enough. Drop a glass ball and you're likely done with that one," he says.
Here are some questions he believes will help you distinguish between the balls:
- What’s the long-term impact of this ball? He suggests using author Suzy Welch’s formula – will this matter a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, 10 years from now? And don’t just assess the career balls you are juggling, but all of them, including family and other interests.
- Who else cares about this ball? You may not care much about a particular ball but perhaps your boss or spouse does. “You don’t want your decision-making to be driven solely by other people, but you usually need to at least consider them,” he says.
- What’s the upside of this ball? It’s easy when juggling a lot of balls to view them all as equal burdens, which is not really the case. Asking what good things might result from doing a superb job of juggling a fabulous ball might help with setting priorities.
- If I dropped this ball, could I recover? Some setbacks you face in life are minor and you bounce back quickly while others are more significant. “The point here is that most setbacks are recoverable. Which means, of course, that most balls are rubber. That should help take the pressure off a bit,” he says.
- Should I even be juggling this ball? It’s possible someone else should be juggling it, no one should be juggling it or you can delay dealing with it.
Take some time early in the year to consider the rubber and glass balls you are dealing with.
2. Quick and slow: Two other balls to balance in 2018
Jackie Jarvis, a business coach who lives near Oxford, England, wrote a book a few years ago aimed at entrepreneurs titled Quick Wins in Sales and Marketing. Her more recent book takes a different tack: In Pursuit of Slow is a meditation on listening to voices inside us wishing for a more peaceful lifestyle.
Quick and slow. The operative words in each title sum up the duality of our lives, the frenetic pace most of us live at and the craving for something different. In a sense, it's two balls that we need to balance for a proper pace to our lives.
Ms. Jarvis has always pursued fast. And with it, a constant companion: more. She has been in pursuit of something extra through school, university, relationships, work and career. A few years ago, drained, she met a colleague who was the opposite, relaxed and refreshed after walking the Camino de Santiago trail. She opted for a similar trek, walking part of the trail in France, but stuffed too many things into her rucksack and one day, shoulders sore, legs aching, she realized she had come for relaxation but had brought another type of overload with her. She threw the rucksack to the ground, in despair, realizing she had to let go and didn't know how.
A thought – it seemed almost like a voice from outside her, but obviously sprung from inside – called out: "Have the courage to let go of that which no longer serves you." She took some of the items from her rucksack that were unnecessary and gave it to an old man she passed. "My load was lighter and now I could better enjoy myself on my walk," she says in an interview.
She started to reflect on that voice. What was it? Why that message? How could she listen to it? She decided to call it The Voice of Slow. "The Voice of Slow is within us all but we don't hear it as we're too busy," she says.
It seems a fantasy – impossible to achieve. As children, she reminds us, we were called to it by the words of Peter Pan: "Come with me where dreams are born and time is never planned."
The Voice of Slow wants the best for you, she insists. She closes each section of her book with a request you listen to that voice as you answer some questions. For example:
- Where are you running too fast in your life?
- Are there times when you would get more pleasure out of something if you slowed down?
- Negative beliefs can influence us. What do you believe to be true about slowing down?
- Finish this sentence: Slowing down will mean I … · How does what you believe influence your life?
- Is that what you want?
- What do you want instead?
She sees it as a battle between ego and soul. Ego is our thinking mind, filled with "must dos" and "should dos," prodding us to climb the career ladder. Soul is the part within that wonders if that pace truly makes sense. She sees her clients – you may be similar – as carrying heavy rucksacks as they climb big mountains, often a trail of colleagues behind them, also with huge rucksacks. Nobody considers what might be jettisoned. Are all the goals valid? Can some of the burden be delegated? Decluttering – emptying your rucksack – can help.
Her Voice of Slow on the Camino path talked of courage, which is fitting because often it's fear that prevents us from changing our pace. Slow down and you'll be admitting you aren't up to the job – that you have failed. Some of us are also addicted to busyness, finding it fulfilling. Instead, give yourself permission to slow down.
It won't be easy. She struggles. "I've read my own book three times to remind me to look after myself. It's important to listen to what your soul needs," she says.
In choosing to pursue slow, don't go at it too fast. Just a few minutes of silence, meditation or walking can be an excellent start. "Go slow five minutes at a time," she says. "You don't need to change your whole world at once. Find out what is underneath the noise."
3. Quick hits
- When writing an e-mail, do you assume that it’s being read on a desktop? That’s so 2016! Increasingly, e-mails are read on mobile devices – 54 per cent of e-mails in March of last year, headed some feel to 80 per cent this year. Write your e-mails for smartphones to avoid them being ignored – three to five sentences, with bulleted lists ideal, says communications consultant Joe McCormack.
- Forget the 10,000-hour rule – that you need to devote 10,000 hours to your field for mastery. Instead, entrepreneur Michael Simmons recommends the 10,000 experiments rule, which worked for people such as Thomas Edison, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg.
- Reduce stress by staying in the moment on your commute, whether it’s in a car, on a train or on a bus, says The Ladders reporter Jane Burnett.
- Founding CEOs are not good managers, a recent study shows. They have low management scores when compared to other owner-managers and poorer performance in the firm.
- The most successful people learn from other people’s mistakes, not just their own, says leadership coach Susan Mazza.