Juggling: A Second Act


My last post on work-life balance, The Juggling Act, resulted in more responses from you, Dear Readers, than any prior blog. That seems a good indicator that I should write about the topic again, this round sharing your insights.

More than Meets the Eye

One of you empathically responded with your own juggling metaphor—keeping large glass elephants simultaneously suspended. What was interesting about this comment is that it came from a person who is extraordinarily adept at multi-tasking at a macro level. From the outside, they make juggling look easy. What I take from this is that work-life balance is most accurately measured from the inside. It’s a deeply personal calibration.

The Juggler

Another one of you wisely noted that self-integration of the mind, body and spirit enables you to know why you’re juggling in the first place. “The whole purpose is revealed.” This holistic approach also allows one to determine which balls (or elephants) can be let down without any harm.

Yet another reader pointed me towards a thought-provoking quote from Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper.

Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour.

And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear

that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.

Goldilocks Figured it Out

This spurred me to think about how we might shift our relationship with time from one of scarcity to one of abundance.

What if…we had not too little, not too much, but just the right amount of time? What else…might come of that paradigm shift? Would we ever be hurried? Would the feeling of being “too busy” or “overwhelmed” disappear? Sounds pretty enticing, no?

I shouldn’t have been surprised when the most game-changing metaphor came from my mom. You may recall she’s the one who suggested I seek out a more serene metaphor in the first place. “Pace and Space,” she wrote. As she moves through her day, she aims to engage with each moment at the right pace, allowing enough space for the beginning, middle and end. There’s no polarity between up in the air or down on the ground. It’s more of a state of being rather than doing.

Elephant(s) in the Room

So far I’ve been looking at work-life integration from the individual perspective. A well-informed reader shared this New York Times article that looks at the toll the 24-7 work culture takes on families and gender equality. Based on the research there is a bias against female caregivers. According to Harvard Business School’s Professor Robin Ely, “the work-family balance problem is recognized as primarily a woman’s problem.”

The article goes on to say that it doesn’t stop there. An even larger dynamic at play is a culture of overwork that negatively impacts everyone. Work hours have increased for all workers over the last four decades. We’re wrestling with work-life integration as a society, not just individuals. By saying yes too often, we’re saying no to the really important things—a topic of an earlier blog, Saying No to Get to Yes.

More Questions than Answers

Where do we start? While I don’t have the answers to the big questions, I can start with what’s in my control.

So what’s the single thing I could do today that would make the biggest difference in re-shaping my relationship with time?

For me, that would be a few minutes of meditation, morning and evening. Doing nothing, just being. And in so being, even if briefly, I’m more likely to pause and ask the right questions. Is this the highest use of my time? If I have just the right amount of time, what would I be doing-being in this moment?

What would make the biggest difference for you in making friends with time?

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