Juggle Well – 5 Tips for Prioritizing and Managing Time – Part 2

How well do you juggle?  Take a moment to self-assess.

When I am interrupted it is easy to jump right back into what I was working on.  1 (easy) – 5 (difficult)
I am totally on top of my work, nothing ever falls off my plate.  1 (on top of it) – 5 (stuff falls off the plate)
I make a "to do" list and accomplish all of it in the timeframe I set. 1 (always done) – 5 (to do list keeps growing)
My priorities are clear and don’t shift on a whim or because of others. 1 (clear/steady) – 5 (not clear/ever changing)

Rating scale:
04 – 09 Master Juggler.  You can juggle with the best of them!
10 – 15 Juggler.  You can keep the balls in the air for long periods, but once in awhile they come crashing down.
16 – 20 Apprentice.  You may get the balls up in the air, but you still have a long way to go to keep them there.

Juggling well comes from a combination of being firm about examining what’s on your plate and establishing a solid foundation from which you are juggling.  Wherever you are on the scale, I hope you are able to take away something from the following 5 tips.  An additional (+5) tips were presented in last month’s article.  Check out Part 1

#1 – Uphold Your Boundaries
I love talking about boundaries because boundaries help us put perspective around what we are doing and what those around us are doing.  When I hear that someone is constantly fire fighting at work – their fires, other people’s fires, everything is always a fire – I can almost guarantee that the person has not built a strong foundation around their boundaries. 

Understanding boundaries can help you better recognize when you get yourself into a fire and when someone comes to you with their fire. 
Boundaries are like pretend lines you put around you to fully express yourself.  Without them there is typically not enough room for you to grow and you may begin to feel stifled.  Boundaries are about what others cannot do to you or around you. Boundaries determine how much what others do hinders your space.  Boundaries are about the actions of others and how they may influence you.  

For instance, you may relate to seeing an angry customer in a store who gets upset, raises their voice and even begins to swear at the customer service person trying to assist them.  Depending on the customer service rep’s boundaries, the angry customer’s actions could negatively influence that service rep., drain him of energy, and leave him feeling unhappy. That will have a lasting impact on every customer that rep comes in contact with the rest of the day.

Strengthen your boundaries by:
•    Define your own boundaries.  Write them down.
•    Be willing to educate others on how to respect your boundaries.
•    Be relentless, yet not punishing to yourself or others as you develop your boundaries.
•    Make a list of 5 ways you are violating others’ boundaries.
•    Make a list of 5 things that people may no longer do around you, do to you or say to you.
•    Thank and acknowledge the people who are respecting your boundaries.

#2 – Stay Present
In order to juggle well you need to have a firm hold on your present.  By present I am talking about the reality of your life as it is today, right now.  Not delving into the past or visualizing the future, but identifying what is right now, like it or not.  When you understand the present it puts the past and the future in the proper light.

This becomes incredibly important the more and more you are juggling.  The more balls you have in the air the more you need to know exactly where you are right here and now in order to keep them all going.  As you keep juggling, the past gets put aside and the future is merely set up by what you do in the present.  If your juggling is perfect in the present it sets the stage for juggling perfectly in the future.

This is more of a perspective than anything else.  No matter how much you have going on, if you take a moment to understand how to make the present perfect you can more easily give yourself the context around which to handle everything going on.  It may require giving a situation some pause and reflection and reappraising what is going on from a different point of view.

Let me share with you a story about a remarkable lady I knew. 

She juggled cancer as a part of her life multiple times.  She could have very well looked at her past and pondered over what an agonizing life she’s had over the past 20 some years and mourned for herself.   On the same note she could have looked at her future and wondered why she keeps getting this ugly ball thrown to her and wondered how much longer she has to live?  Instead she learned how to live in the present.  Everyday she woke up and said a prayer.  She would always say that she knew it was going to be a good day because she started it out above ground and not six feet under. She made the most of that day whatever that meant for her in the moment.  Some days that meant taking care of her volunteer duties at the hospital or meeting with the legion women and other days it meant taking a long nap in the middle of the day to have enough strength to make up dinner.  Cancer was just something she juggled along with all other aspects of her life.  Cancer did eventually take her life, but it certainly did not win over the time she had left.  No matter what her present was, she found it perfect and lived it fully. 

#3 – Plan for the unexpected
I am still amazed at how many executives I talk to schedule back-to-back meetings all day long and then wonder in disbelief how and why unexpected events totally throw off their whole day.  If there is one thing I know will be constant in the workday it is unexpected events.  Get into the habit of not scheduling every single minute of the day.  Things come up.  Be ready.  Create space for the unexpected.

#4 – Get organized
How many piles are on the desk, around the desk, sitting in drawers?  How many emails are sitting in your inbox? 

To pull from the master of Getting Things Done, David Allen, go through your "inbox/stuff" and determine if it is actionable (if not trash it, file it for review later, file it for reference).  If it is actionable determine if it will take less than 2 minutes.  If so, do it right then and there.  Be done with it.  If it will take more than 2 minutes either delegate for someone else to do or defer it to a time on your calendar when it can be done.  Set the appointment with yourself to complete the task.

#5 – Give yourself more energy
Our bodies have a certain pulse that creates the amount of energy we can expend each day.  That pulse is somewhat dictated by how we treat ourselves. 

  • The food we eat and when we eat. 
  • The amount of sleep and exercise we give ourselves. 
  • The level of stress we induce or take on. 

All of these are factors in the level of energy we have.  Tony Swartz just came out with a book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, dedicated to bringing this idea of energy to us personally and as it relates to the corporate world. (More details included in the book review).  Take some time to check out the tips provided on The Energy Project’s site.

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