Prioritizing: The 5 balls you juggle in life

Priorities and the 5 Balls You Juggle In Life

I think there should be much more of a robust science and research underpinning to the idea of “How people set priorities.” That’s somewhat everything in life, because I mean, you need to determine what’s important and what needs to be focused on first — and in issues of work and family/friends, most people are uniquely bad at doing that. Isn’t that awkward? Shouldn’t we study this more? I don’t mean “time management” or “productivity” because eventually, those are both just a series of “hacks” that work for some brains and not for others. I mean getting right down to the nitty gritty and trying to figure out, “OK, these things matter. These things do not.”

James Patterson (famous author) has said there are five balls we juggle in life:

  • Work
  • Family
  • Health
  • Friends
  • Integrity

There’s a broader context, though.

From this Wharton article about the female CEO of Deloitte:

Citing author James Patterson’s quotation about the five balls we juggle in life — work, family, health, friends and integrity — she said that the work ball is made of rubber: If we “drop the ball,” as we sometimes do, it bounces back. “You have a bad day, you have a bad project, you have someone you don’t like that you’re working with: You’ve got to keep that in perspective.” But the other balls, she says, are made of glass, and can shatter if we don’t pay attention to them. “Always keep that in mind,” she said.

To recap, then:

  • Work = rubber ball
  • Family, health, friends, integrity = glass balls

The meaning: if you don’t put some focus on the latter four, when they drop? They shatter. Work drops all the time. It bounces back. Remember: failure is everywhere, even if we don’t discuss it often.

Luckily, we’re now commencing the time of year where working on family, health, friends, and integrity is a bit more respected by bosses — so embrace that, baby. Deliverables and work tasks are always present, but seeing some friends during the holidays — or seeing a kid’s first or second Christmas — those are things that will resonate way longer than some random project you submitted to your boss.

If you’re looking for a way to prioritize just at the office — so that you can juggle the other four balls — consider this approach.

Final meandering note here: I’m glad someone added the category of “integrity.” I’m working on a post right now about the whole concept of “trust” and “reputation” in modern society — at some level it matters a lot (maybe to the point of being everything), and at some other level it seems like it’s declining at a major societal level — and I always think it’s interesting that people group broad life concepts around “work” and “family,” but don’t bring in personal traits like “integrity.” That’s crucial to how others perceive you at some level, so it needs to be one of the juggled balls in this concept.

Ted Bauer

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