I used to describe myself as a self-starter and brilliant multi-tasker. When someone needed to get six things done at once, I was the gal to call! You know the old saying, “When you want something done, ask a busy person!” Well, that was me. Always busy… and always willing to make time to take on one more task. I prided myself on getting it all done and doing it all at once.
After reading a few articles on the dangers of multi-tasking, however, I realized that when I’m being most productive I am not multi-tasking, I’m juggling! Think about it. Juggling is about breaking down complex patterns and maneuvers into simple tasks to keep a number of rapidly shifting balls in the air. It’s a process. And having worked for many years with Beth Schneider at Process Prodigy (as her lead ‘Systems Goddess’), I learned to recognize, appreciate and love a good process!
Look, I’m still a fan of any product that ‘cleans my toilet bowl while I work’ or makes me beautiful while I sleep. Anytime I can accomplish two things at once, I’m in! I love that I can set the cook time on my oven and write a blog while the casserole is cooking. And though we might call that multi-tasking, it isn’t really, is it? Two things are happening concurrently, but I’m only actively doing one at a time. And, to carry this even further; if I’ve also loaded and started the dishwasher, dropped off my car at the dealership (where they wash it after fixing it) and asked my neighbor to pick up a few things for me when she goes to the market… I’m mega juggling!!!
The following is an excerpt from Fast Company, Juggling by Anna Muoio: As you read it, think of juggling TASKS instead of balls, fire sticks or knives. It makes so much sense!
“We all have to juggle different types of things… If I throw you three different objects all at once, you have a limited time to gauge the weight, texture, and size of what’s about to fall into your hand. So you have to develop different ways of grasping the objects. If you try to grasp one as you would another, you’re going to miss— you may even get hurt. Try to understand the characteristics of the objects coming at you. Worse than dropping objects is letting them collide in the air and fall in random patterns. To prevent this, you need to create a separate flight path for each object.”
If you look at things in only one way, you’ll be greatly restricted in how many objects (or tasks) you can juggle. Yet, you can be a very successful juggler if you’re willing and able to look at your objects or to-do list of tasks, in a number of different ways – to get a clear perception and unscramble the patterns; see them all at once, and create a plan that addresses all of them and creates balance.
Balance is an essential skill in juggling— as essential as it is in life. But the balance I’m referring to is not perfect equilibrium and stillness. It’s the ability to make quick and exquisitely refined responses to any unexpected change. In other words, expect the best and plan for the worst!
Just like a good juggler, I’m constantly figuring out how to best keep ‘all my balls in the air’. I know I can never have absolute control over any situation, so I stay alert, flexible and open to change. Juggling – including task-juggling – builds your focus muscles. It’s about being flexible in dealing with the unexpected and adjusting as necessary, keeping all your balls in the air and staying FOCUSED on one thing at a time! It’s good to be a juggler!