To start off with the conclusion, since I’ve already drawn one; you can’t actually juggle all these things (equally).
Some years ago my life was (apparently) fairly simple. Yet, during those years I never felt that those were my fairly simple years. I struggled with quite a few things but had yet to discover the challenge of spending time wisely.
My blog opens with the following quote:
“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”― Benjamin Hoff, the Tao of Pooh
I read this quote way before I actually needed it. Obviously, it’s never a bad thing to think about whether what you are doing is important to you and therefor wisely spend. Still, in hindsight I had no clue of what it meant to not have enough time. And in comparison to some people, I might still haven’t got a clue.
My work ethic has some ways to go and can definitely improve. I am a first class procrastinator, but I do, in the very depths of despair, show peak performance qualities. These qualities have helped me through many of my challenges but in the last few years I came to realize that this was not going to cut it anymore and therefor had to start building a more profound and practical foundation upon which I could rely in time of need. What this brought to my attention is that I have very little time and so many desires to do more than I can actually do now without sacrificing any more sleep since recent studies have shown that as much as 6 hours of sleep may harm a person immensely later in life. I am usually lucky to get 6 hours of sleep, mainly because of our daughter. Which sort of brings me to the point of this blog.
In the midsts of my despair I have came to those who claimed to have the answers when it comes to juggling work with study and a personal life. Not many of those actually include a family life by the way. For me it were David Allen (GTD), Cal Newport, Matt D’Avella, Thomas Frank, Nathaniel Drew amongst others, that have helped me shape my most efficient way of working at this time in my life. Needless to say these guys have a lot of knowledgeable things to say and fore sure there is some room for error when it comes to the practitioner (myself) but I can’t actually conclude that all of their combined knowledge has led to a foolproof system. But there is a separation to be made in order to define foolproof.
In terms of strategics and methods to manage your time as effectively as possible (which meaning differs per person), they pretty much have all the answers. Not because they are so incredibly smart (also) but they have taken the time to research other successful people throughout history which had already shown the best ways of doing things as effectively as you can.
So what I am on about then? Well the title of this blog does not so much refer to spending your time as effectively as possible but whether it is possible to juggle various aspects of your life at the same time. In order to understand my conclusion it is important to state that when I think, or when I use to think, about juggling work, study, family and a personal life, I thought of them equally. It is by no means impossible to work, study, be a father (or mother), have friends and hobbies you are passionate about. I am and do all these things. But to do or be them equally, seems to be nearly impossible. Even when those who claim it is not, it appears it actually is. And they are not doing them equally either.
(Take in mind this is debatable, because I have encountered more than one person who will tell me that they have a successful career and that they are still very good parents, but the truth in my opinion is that you always sacrifice something in order to achieve something else. If your career means you have to take your child to daycare, it makes you less of a good parent. It does not make you a BAD parent, but the kid would be better off with you instead of daycare. This, however, is not debatable.)
When you juggle (let’s use it as a literal metaphor) you never hold more than two balls at the same time. The rest of them, regardless of how many, are up in the air. Let’s assume, for the sake of my argument, that those which you hold within your hands, are the ones who are most being looked after. They are safe, within your control and closest to your body. The rest of them are within your sight and obviously there appears to be a certain amount of control since you know where they will land and when they will and so on. But they are not nearly as safe as the ones you are holding.
When, for whatever reason, you decide that one of the balls in the air have to end up in your hand, you will have to make room by getting rid of one of them. Again, they will end up in your sight and within ‘your control’ but they are hardly as secure as when you held them. If you think that tiny bit of difference in distance does not matter, try putting your colicky baby an inch from you as oppose to holding them. You will see (and hear) the difference.
What I just described is exactly the same with the various rolls you have taken on in life. You can manage one or two to the full extend and the rest will suffer from it. If you decide to choose that a different roll needs to be managed to the full extend, one of your current roles will have to make place and suffer from it.
All productivity guru’s, social media influencers and so on, will try and make you believe you can excel at everything and anything, all the time. This simply can not be true by definition. Because, even if someone appears to excel at everything, he of she would excel more at one of those things if they dropped the rest.
Hence the conclusion, you can’t juggle all of it with an equal outcome.
The quote I started with really started making sense when I came to realize all of the above. If you have a lot to do or want to do a lot, but there simply isn’t enough time, it is up to you to decide which of those things you cherish most right now. Which of those things do you want to hold closely to your heart and make sure are being taken care of to their full extend? And within that regard, which of those things can you postpone knowing that the day might never come that you will actualize any of it? If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, would I want my evening before to have spent with my daughter reading some idiotic book that I have read 5000 times simply because she still appears to read it for the very first time, every time? Or would I want that evening to be spend going through various diets that will make me look shredded? Or watch YouTube videos on how to get a following for my blog (which end up with watching videos completely unrelated to this anyway)? Is contacting that one person who can make a difference to my career really the last thing I would have wanted to do?
Because the truth is, these are all the balls up in te air and countless more. We hold them there because it fills us with a sense of purpose and as long as we can see them flying through the air, they are actually there. And they are not yet lost. But they also take our minds of that what we hold in our hands, as they feel safe and secure anyway. They are hardly as exciting either, because…well….they are secure.
Or aren’t they….