If you often feel like a juggler, trying to balance all the different responsibilities of your life, you’re not alone. Between work demands, home and family obligations, interests and hobbies, community involvement and personal/professional development pursuits, you may feel like you have too many balls in the air.

How widespread is the problem? A recent study found that two out of every five of professionals are dissatisfied with the balance between their work and their personal lives. For many people work and home life aren’t coexisting harmoniously and they experience the stresses associated with being out of balance.

Before all your juggling balls come crashing down, follow some tips gleaned from…the world of juggling! After all, if professional jugglers like ourselves can balance chain saws, flaming torches and butcher knives without a scratch, we can certainly teach others a thing or two about balance. Here are some secrets from the world of juggling that apply to anyone’s life.

1. Allow Yourself to Focus on One Thing at a Time—Pay Attention to the Chain Saw

During juggling routines, a juggler must pay attention to many different things—the items he or she is juggling, the speed at which the items are moving in the air, the size and weight of each item, etc. However, there are certain times and certain objects that demand all the juggler’s attention at once—such as a buzzing chain saw falling into his hands.

The same thing happens in everyday life. There are times when you’re swamped with work and for a large part of your day you have to focus on work—not on your kids, your vacation, your finances or anything else. When that time comes, don’t fight it. Allow it to happen, knowing that you’ll focus on something else exclusively at another time.

If necessary, arrange your day so you have that focused time. Tell others your schedule so they know they can’t disrupt you during that time. Do what you must to keep your focus on the item at hand. By doing so, you’ll be more effective when you later address the other areas of your life. And you’ll avoid a nasty mishap with that chain saw!

2. Focus a Little Bit on Everything at Once—Keep All the Plates Spinning

When a juggler is spinning plates, he or she must focus on and tend to all the plates at the same time. If the juggler were to focus only on one spinning plate, all the others would quickly come crashing down.

At times, life is a lot like plate spinning. You know how it goes: your child’s schoolteacher is on the phone, the repair man is at the front door, your partner is calling on your cell phone and the meal you were cooking on the stove is burning. You have to jump from one thing to another just to keep the fires out (literally).

The problem is that many people don’t know how to spin several plates or juggle numerous balls at once. When life demands it and they have no choice, they get overwhelmed. Be proactive and practice multi-tasking on a regular basis. Your growing ability to juggle multiple things at once will actually help you feel more balanced and relaxed during times of stress. And it’ll prevent you from breaking too many plates!

3. Simplify Wherever You Can—Know Your Juggling Limits

Just because a juggler can juggle five balls effortlessly doesn’t mean he can juggle ten balls. And just because someone can juggle flaming torches doesn’t mean she can also juggle chain saws. Every juggler has limits.

Your life, too, has limits. Look back over your daily planner and analyze where you spend your time. Get rid of any unnecessary commitments, or at least put something on the back burner temporarily. If you’re involved in too many committees or trying to learn too many hobbies, if your children are involved in too many after-school activities, you’ll need to decide what’s not essential and simplify your life.

Realize that some cuts may only be temporary. Do a regular evaluation of your time so you can decide when you can take on something new. Too many people today get overcommitted and then wonder why they have no balance in their lives. Know what’s realistic for you, given your time constraints, and get rid of the rest, at least for now. Your juggling will have fewer drops once you simplify your pattern.

4. Don’t Stress When Interruptions Occur—Improvise When the Spotlight Is On

In the entertainment business, things change on a dime. For example, you may be committed to going to your daughter’s piano recital tomorrow night, but then The Tonight Show calls and wants you as a guest…tomorrow night. In that case, you may have to drop everything, change your plans and take the lucky breaks as they come. Or, during a performance, a juggler may have to improvise and make some changes to his or her routine while in front of a live audience.

The Tonight Show may not be calling you, but last-minute changes happen to everyone. For instance, you may set aside your entire morning to finish that big project. Ten minutes into your work, you get a call from your child’s school saying that your son is sick and you have to pick him up immediately. When that happens, accept the interruption and don’t get upset. Feeling angry, resentful or annoyed will only cause you to feel more stress than necessary. Realize that these things happen to everyone.

Being nimble and able to change gears on a moment’s notice will keep you in balance, no matter what happens. And sometimes those improvised moments turn out to be the best part of the show.

Professional jugglers JON WEE and OWEN MORSE have been
awarded five Guinness Book World Records and the gold medal at the
International Jugglers Competition. Today, they coach people to
create balance in their work and personal lives.