Our Personal Juggling Act -- Introduction to Juggling Your Life


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Juggling is a necessity, nothing less, and nothing more. It’s a pill we must swallow if we are to get on well in life. The more efficient we become, the less we need to concentrate on it. It is not who we are; it does not define us. It’s about bringing tasks under our control and is a means to an end, a tool, and should not become the focal point.

Juggling or Multi-Tasking

Juggling and multi-tasking are often confused, terms frequently used interchangeably. However, there are key differences.

Juggling is handling or dealing with several things consecutively, frequently in rapid succession, so as to satisfy often competing requirements, changing priorities, in and out of your hands. A juggler must demonstrate certain competencies, in order to keep everything in the air smoothly.

  • Rhythm & Flow of Motion – Rhythm, once established must then be maintained, to the point that the motion appears to be self-perpetuating, flowing.

  • Concentration - Since rhythm and flow are not self-generated, nor self-perpetuating, the juggler must guard against distractions, at least until the process becomes familiar, habitual.

  • Perspective - A successful juggler must be able to keep all the items within her field of vision, to be where she needs to be to “catch" each as it comes around.

  • Attention to the Moment - in other words, her mind must not be too far from what she is doing, and always aware of the next thing coming round.

  • Confidence - the key ingredient. She’ll never keep it all up in the air if she doesn’t think she can!

    Multi-tasking implies multiple, concurrent, synchronous responsibilities, of essentially equal importance, with the same or similar deadlines. Multi-tasking is very different than juggling, though both functions often occur so rapidly that the differences are obscured.

    In light of the increased individual responsibilities inherent in post-layoff corporate environments, multi-tasking has recently come under serious scrutiny. Organizational psychologists have discovered that productivity and accuracy decrease proportionate to the degree of multi-tasking required in a position (CNN.com, Study: Multitasking is counterproductive, Porter Anderson 8/6/01; and APA press releases, based on Executive Control of Cognitive Processes in Task Switching, Joshua S. Rubinstein, 8/5/02).

    Experts have further noted a measurable time-cost to switching back and forth between projects, thus placing stress on the brain’s executive control processes, which allocate the brain’s resources. Their findings indicate it is healthier and more efficient to complete, or at least spend a measurably planned period of time on each project. Any mother of small children could have told us this!

    To Sum It Up…

    Juggling implies one thing, one item, one obligation in hand at a time, very often only briefly and cyclically. Multi-tasking, in contrast, requires that multiple items are in hand at the same time.

    Juggling means not only keeping your job, family, projects, etc.in the air, but the tasks that constitute them as well. Think of it as juggling file folders filled with pertinent papers, and not only keeping the folders circling in the air, dropping none of them, but spilling out none of the contents. Sound familiar?

    Why Not Balance?

    In today’s society, everyone seems to be looking for balance. There’s a great deal of discussion around the skills necessary for creating a balanced lifestyle. Balance is defined as stability produced by even distribution of weight on either side of a vertical axis; equipoise between contrasting, opposing or interacting elements; physical equilibrium; mental and emotional steadiness.

    This sounds like what we’re after! So why don’t we join in the quest for balance? Why are we examining juggling when it sounds like so much work? Let’s take a look at the character of balance and see just how permanent is that stasis we call balance?

    Let’s consider the permanence of some balanced elements. A mathematical equation is permanently balanced as long as none of the elements on either side of the are altered. Scales are permanently balanced as long as the contents remain unchanging - somewhat riskier. A formal garden design might remain balanced, but only temporarily – as soon as the weeds begin, the symmetry is disturbed!

    Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong place! If life follows the pattern of the mathematical equation, and you are living what you consider to be a balanced life, you need not read any further! The rest of us are seeking balance, but we’re looking in the wrong place! The key to the problem is in the definition, the phrase “even distribution of weight. " Nothing outside of ourselves is within our control to that extent.

    It’s All About The Cycle

    Seeking external balance assumes we are able to control our environment, and we simply can’t accomplish that for a long enough period to sustain a balanced lifestyle as a result. We are not in control of the circumstances that surround us, nor can we control what comes our way. Attempting to do so will sooner or later result in frustration and worse.

    Internal balance, however, is very attainable, and begins the moment we acknowledge that we cannot control the outside world. Does that mean we are left at the mercy of what comes our way? Not at all. But first, we must clarify some conditions of balance and we need to answer two questions in order to understand the relationship between juggling and balance.

    Does internal balance result in effective juggling?


    Does effective juggling result in internal balance?

    Our definition speaks of stability, even distribution, equipoise, physical, mental, and emotional steadiness. This is a description of results, not actions.

    Effective juggling is an external action which, when practiced with some degree of regularity, does a great deal to create the internal response of mental and emotional balance, which then in turn has a positive physical effect. It looks something like this:

    Juggling = An Action

    Balance = A Result

    But that’s not all.

    JUGGLING contributes to greater INTERNAL BALANCE

    INTERNAL BALANCE contributes to More Effective JUGGLING

    Effective JUGGLING leads to a greater sense of Internal BALANCE, etc.

    A cycle is created and the resulting internal balance contributes to more effective juggling, a measurable external action. Juggling becomes the pivot point of the cycle, the key to maintaining the rhythm.

    For our purposes, we are assuming a degree of internal balance exists at the outset. If none exists, you are probably not juggling at all, in which case more effective juggling cannot be addressed. If you believe this describes your current state, I would suggest considering professional assistance, as there may be issues far deeper than any workshop can address.

    A desire for balance assumes some degree of internal balance, and therefore an ability to juggle. Effective juggling is the pivot point, the key to a growing sense of balance in our lifestyle. In our model, balance is the catalyst; juggling is the resulting action; balance is the result. And then the cycle continues…

    All Parts Together

    Human beings are essentially three part beings:

  • We are physical in outward makeup, the part everyone sees and which we often confuse with our identity. The very real physical and emotional problems this mistaken perception can cause make it very difficult to achieve the balance necessary to successfully juggle.

  • We have a mental/emotional makeup as well. Though it is invisible to the observer, it exerts the most influence on our actions. It consists of how we think and reason, our desires, and how we feel. It is a continuing, but extremely fickle part of our makeup. Bringing emotion into line is key to making the choices necessary to successful juggling.

  • We also have a spiritual makeup. This is who we really are, and is the most constant part of our makeup and is all too often ignored in favor the other two.

    Each is critical to the healthy operation of our lives and must be carefully considered in any juggling plan. If we attain a healthy balance between these three areas, then we will be equipped to successfully juggle what comes our way.

    Successful Jugglers

    Women have achieved recognition for their notable accomplishments in nearly every field of endeavor - juggling the whole time!

  • In the past 20 years, women have accounted for 10 Nobel prizes (4 of which were awarded to Americans)

  • Women have served their country as espionage agents in every US war; 127 women were war correspondents in W. W. II; hundreds fought on both sides of the Civil War; 38 women Airforce pilots were killed in W. W. II

  • We have distinguished ourselves as inventors are recognized for such innovations as bullet proof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers, to name a few.

  • We are successful CEO’s and respected stateswomen, and at the same time, we have raised millions of children lovingly and successfully, creating millions of warm, welcoming homes and fostering countless lifelong memories in the process

    But. . .

    We are women first, last and always, a too often ignored element of our makeup. Rather than holding us back, it is our womanhood that has contributed the remarkable ability we have displayed to juggle effectively and accomplish remarkably! Rather than live it down, we ought to celebrate out femininity!

    We are wives, lovers, mothers, daughters, and sisters, roles no man can play, all of which we fill along with everything else - but this is another workshop for another day. And we must juggle daily, as our counterparts are rarely called upon to. How can we apply what we’ve learned to our own personal juggling act?

    (Continued in Part 3 – Let’s Get Personal – Your Juggling Act)

    Copyright 2005 Karin S. Syren and So-lu'shunz All Rights Reserved

    Karin Syren is a certified coach, specializing in women’s issues, personal and business, and is the owner of So-lu’shunz EffectivenessCoaching™. She has a particular desire to help women better identify the issues facing them, and to coach them through the steps in gaining, regaining, and maintaining control of their circumstances. She is particularly focused on the areas of daily juggling and the intense demands of the many transitions facing women in today’s complex society. She offers guidance in discovering mission, creating vision and designing goals. Karin has presented The Juggling Act Workshop as an all day workshop as well as a class certified for continuing education credits. She is available to present the workshop tailored to large and small groups in a variety of settings. For further information, please see Karin’s website at http://www.Solushunz.com

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