September 17, 2007
News & Opinion: Ask 8cr!: Juggling Elephants
Today's challenge deals with prioritizing and organization:
My biggest challenge is focus. It's kind of a subset of time management, I guess, but I am constantly torn between dozens of good opportunities. The result is that I spread myself too thin and quality suffers, but I can't figure out how to stick with just one or two main things. When I see a new opportunity, that's where my enthusiasm goes, and I have a very difficult time drumming up any interest in working on my existing projects.
I get the impression that many entrepreneurs deal with this struggle, and hope that there's a good way to use this tendency to somehow strengthen my business(es!), but right now, I just feel overwhelmed with the things I've started. - Sarah
It sounds like Sarah's juggling elephants, and I'm sure many of us can relate; every project at work seems more exciting than the last, and it's easy to start saying "yes" to everything. Then, as Sarah states, quality suffers and we burn ourselves out. Add home and personal life to this, and it's a total meltdown.
Jones Loflin and Todd Musig clear the air with their book, Juggling Elephants: An Easier Way to Get Your Most Important Things Done - Right! Using the analogy of a circus, they identify the "three rings" of our lives, and how each must balance each other. After all, as the author's state "every act must serve a purpose." If there's not something going on in one ring, it's being prepared behind the scenes, and it better be good once it starts happening, for your sake, for your "performer's" sake, and for your "audience's" sake.
The question posed in the book that hit home for me was, "Does this act belong in my circus?" After reading the book, and seeing challenges like Sarah's, I realized that I, too, have quite a circus on my own hands. Over the last couple years, I've taken advantage of more and more opportunities (I kept saying, "yes") and I often find my trapeze artists barely catching the next swing. In other words, I realize that there are acts that just don't belong, and that it's ok for me to retire them and focus on the acts that are really important. But they're all important, right? Isn't that why we said "yes" to them? It's a tough dilemma. Fortunately, the book provides ways to identify these "main acts" and explains how we can go about exercising them to their full potential, while ceasing to spend time on less-important acts. Think about it - this can have a huge effect on our lives.
The book is a quick read, but really sticks with you. Since it takes your mind through your professional and personal life, you easily place yourself in the shoes of the main character of the book, and see that juggling elephants is tough, but manageable, when applying the ideas that Loflin and Musig discuss. It's a personal book, but could also be applied to a management team, to identify what projects they should focus on, which products to push, and how any group of people can work together better and more efficiently to get the most important things done right.
About Aaron Schleicher
Aaron Schleicher has been the author services specialist at 800-CEO-READ since 2004. You can usually find him hidden under a baseball cap, feet kicked up on his desk, talking with authors, publishers, and businesses. Outside the office you can find him crafting candles, listening to records, and making music with friends and family.