How many balls are you juggling right now? Do you ever feel anxious that you are dropping some? What will happen if you do? The key to successful juggling is to recognise which of your balls are made of rubber or plastic and which are glass.

This metaphor originates from Bryan Dyson, CEO of CocaCola. He described juggling 5 balls: work, family, health, friends and spiritIn his description, only the work one is rubber and the others are all glass. Whist this is a good concept overall it does not quite fit for me. The thought that most of the things I am juggling are fragile glass is scary and not necessarily true. Forgetting to put a drink in your child’s lunchbox is a rubber ball even though it involves family. So how do you tell the difference between rubber and glass balls?

The following questions might help:

What’s the long-term impact of this ball? Remember, this question applies to all of the balls you’re juggling, not just your work-related balls. For most people, family, health and well-being matter as much as, or more than, work. So, will this matter a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, ten years from now?

Who else cares about this ball? You may or may not care that much about the ball but others might. Your partner, your kids, your boss, your team and your customers are all possible answers. Your decision making should not be driven by the needs of others but you may need to at least consider them.

What’s the upside of this ball? Not all balls are equally important. One way to differentiate between the ones that are more, or less, important is to consider the upside. What are the good things that could result from doing a fabulous job with this particular ball? Thinking like this can give clarity about how to prioritise all the balls you’re juggling.

If I dropped this ball, could I recover? Stop for a moment and think about the set-backs you’ve had in your life that you’ve bounced back from. Some of those set-backs were likely so minor that you forgot about them soon after they happened. Others were bigger deals and took longer to recover from but you did. There may be a few (hopefully very few) that you haven’t yet bounced back from. The point here is that most set-backs are recoverable. Which means, of course, that most balls are rubber. That should help take the pressure off a bit.

Should I even be juggling this ball? It’s likely that you’re juggling some balls that really aren’t yours to juggle. Step back and ask the question “should I even be juggling this ball?” Maybe the answer is you should save it for later. Maybe the answer is someone else should be juggling it. Perhaps the answer is no one should be juggling it. What will happen if I let this ball go?

So be brave. Forgive yourself if you drop the odd ball or two. Better still, put some down or pass them over to someone else.

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