Preview: It is possible to live in alignment with your values. Learn the three questions you can ask yourself to help you know your priorities.
In the first post of the Take Back Your Days Challenge, we learned about the rocks in a jar analogy and how using that framework can help you accomplish more of what is important to you by making time for your big rocks first. In the second post in this series, we’re diving deeper into how to know your priorities so that you can define your big rocks. And I’ll give you three questions you can ask yourself to help walk you through this process.
Similarities Between Time Management And Juggling
A friend and I have had quite a few conversations about how many balls we juggle, and we realized that there are quite a few similarities between managing our days and juggling.
- You have to keep your gaze trained on where the balls are going, not on your hands.
- You have to start by learning to juggle one ball.
- The more balls we juggle, the less time we can keep them all in the air.
Juggling is an art that we can learn, but it takes practice!
You will drop balls!
We came to a realization. We will drop balls as we are juggling the demands of our lives. Professional jugglers drop balls too. That’s how they get better; they drop balls, pick them back up, and keep practicing.
So the question became, which balls are we willing to drop?
It’s hard to admit that we will drop something. Feelings of failure, fear, guilt, and maybe shame bubble to the surface when we think about letting something drop. It’s okay; it’s normal. The first step is acknowledging we’re going to drop balls.
3 Types Of Balls You Juggle
As my friend and I talked about the types of balls we juggle (and drop), we identified three types of balls.
Think about those three different materials. If you drop a glass ball, it will shatter into a gazillion pieces. It will create a mess, and you won’t be able to pick that ball back up and juggle it again. It’s gone. A plexiglass ball may get dinged up and may end up with some pieces missing, but you can juggle it again. And a rubber ball will bounce. You can drop it, pick it up, and start juggling right where you left off.
As we think about how we can apply this in our lives, the glass balls are the priorities you do not want to let drop because you don’t want to lose them, such as relationships, your health, or anything you want to focus on. The plexiglass balls are things that are important to you, but you could sit them down for a little while, such as pursuing a dream or developing a new skill. The rubber balls are a lot of what we do in a day. We could ignore most of it, and it really wouldn’t be a big deal.
Step 1: Identify Your Juggling Balls
Once I realized I would drop balls, I identified three steps to help me manage the process. The first step is to identify the types of balls you are juggling.
Take out a piece of paper and draw three circles on it. Label the circles as a glass ball, plexiglass ball, and rubber ball.
For this exercise, you will only identify the three things you want to consider that you are juggling. You will have more than three responsibilities on which you want to focus. And when you live out your daily life, you will do more than three things each day. But for you to find clarity, you have to focus your attention. Dr. David Rock explains in Your Brain at Work to think of our brain as a stage. We can have three to five actors on the stage at any given time. More than that is confusing. Remove some confusion by focusing on only three things for now.
On a different piece of paper, brainstorm everything you can think of that demands your focus. Include tasks and projects you have been meaning to accomplish, goals you might have for next year, and commitments need to fulfill. Don’t worry about analyzing any of it; do a brain dump onto the paper to clear your head.
Step 2: Classify Your Juggling Balls
The second step is to classify your balls. Look through the list of tasks and projects you brainstormed, and identify one responsibility, value, or area of your life for each type of ball.
- My glass ball is relationships. Relationships are very important to me and influence all other aspects of my life. When there is tension or a values conflict, it usually points back to how it’s affecting relationships. I focus on maintaining relationships.
- My plexiglass ball is my health. I am facing some challenges with my overall health and my vision. It’s important to me, and I’m going to make it a high priority, but if I drop it, I can pick it back up later, and it will be okay.
- My rubber ball is attaining my ACC coaching certification. The ACC certification is an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation. When I started the process to achieve my certification in 2022, I knew it would be slow, steady progress. I recognize that if something has to give, and I have to drop a ball, I will pause classes or reduce my coaching availability.
Step 3: Prioritize Your Juggling Balls
The third step is to prioritize your juggling balls. What you identified as your three juggling balls should be your focus for the next period of time. You define that time period, such as three months, six months, or a year. When deciding what to do, refer back to these three priorities. For example, during my business time, the time during my day when I’ve allotted to work on Triumphant Learning activities, I want to focus on gaining my coaching hours to apply for my ACC certification. That means I can pursue different coaching opportunities than I would if my goal were to increase my income.
Creating Habits That Align With Your Priorities
Our habits are our values in action. As you work on prioritizing the balls you are juggling, ask yourself what two or three helpful habits could help you live out your values. Then block out time on your calendar to implement those habits.
For example, relationships are essential to me, so I’ve blocked out time on my calendar daily to sit with my daughter while she has an early lunch before heading to her dual enrollment class. Because this appointment is on my calendar, I don’t schedule other appointments during that special time.
Emotions Of Living Out Your Priorities
As you live a life in alignment with your values and priorities, you will have to become comfortable saying no. I love that someone said that “No” is a complete sentence.
You will probably feel fear, guilt, or shame as you learn to keep your focus on what matters most to you. Embrace the emotions; it’s okay to feel them. Emotions are data to help us discern what is going on and evaluate how we feel about that.
When I feel overwhelmed with too much to do and guilty for saying no, I ask myself two questions.
- Are my balls shattering or bouncing?
- Am I okay with that?
As you practice prioritizing and juggling, you will get better.
How A Coach Can Help You Live In Alignment With Your Priorities
A coach can see what’s going on from a different perspective, and they can see when we might need to make adjustments to our technique. My daughter was teaching me to juggle and pointed out that I was throwing one of the balls too far forward. I knew something was off, but I couldn’t tell what was happening. She watched me juggle from a different perspective and provided feedback to help me improve.
Coaches can also provide exercises to help us improve. My daughter reminded me that I needed to practice with my left hand. I was only throwing the ball with my right hand and was missing an opportunity to improve my skills. A coach can see what we miss because we’re focused on keeping the balls in the air.
If you would like to work with me as your coach, I would love to partner with you and help you move from surviving to thriving. You can do this!
Remember that you cannot juggle all the things. You will have to put some things down, and you will drop some balls. You will also have to decide what’s important and where to focus your attention and energy.
Your challenge is to take some time today to write down one focus for each type of ball (glass, plexiglass, and rubber) and one action step you can take to focus on each of those balls.
This is the second post in a Take Back Your Days Challenge. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series.
- 1: How The Rocks In A Jar Analogy Can Help You Fit More Into Your Day
- 2: How To Know Your Priorities And Let Go Of Fear, Guilt, And Shame
- 3: How Realistic Expectations Help Me Plan My To-Do List With Confidence
- 4: 3 Benefits Of Scheduling Time To Plan Your Day
- 5: You Can Stay On Task By Eliminating These Three Common Obstacles
Also, check out the free email challenge to help you get control of your days.