Juggling the baubles- how do you know what can drop?

It’s Christmas, it’s busy, the usual list of things to remember and hold onto is suddenly increased by what feels like a hundred and seven. The amount of things that need doing and energy and focus and attention is becoming a mountain, so how do you survive the festive period without losing all sense of balance? How do you get a bit of down time in the mix, a bit of space without pressure?

Well, I’m going to use my festively adapted ‘juggling glass baubles’ metaphor. I’m sure many of you will have come across the idea that getting balance in life is a juggling act. Brian Dyson former CEO of Coca-Cola once talked about juggling 5 balls – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spiritual. In his analogy, the work ball is rubber and the others glass. The idea being that work can drop but the others cannot.

Nora Roberts, an author, when asked how she juggles family and working life talked about many more balls than five and suggested that there aren’t whole categories that are glass or rubber but that each task, each thing that needs doing is its own ball and therefore you can have a mix of glass and rubber balls within each category.

This, to me, feels more closely aligned to my life; there are some family things that are glass (picking the kids up for example) but other family things that aren’t glass (cooking from scratch everyday isn’t the be all and end all, some days, fishfingers, chips and peas is fine). Similarly, some of the work stuff is glass (turning up to appointments) and other work stuff can be rubber (CPD and extra reading, are a ‘nice to have’ not an essential every day).

So, to take this metaphor and add a reflective, festive spin to it; during this often stressful and busy time of year, how are you going to work out which of the baubles you’re juggling this December are the cheap plastic ones that bounce, which are the expensive glass ones that it would be annoying to break but not the end of the world, and which are the handmade, never to be recreated, delicate, heirloom baubles passed down through the family?

You’ll have spotted that I’ve increased from glass and rubber to 3 different categories. That’s because I think that it can help to notice the details in how we perceive our world and our daily tasks and activities. In seeing the nuances between different tasks, we can get a better idea of how best to organise our time and priorities so we can find better balance and less stress.

So, here we go, lets get sorting through the baubles.

Job number 1

Work out how many baubles you’re juggling. Then work out how these make you feel and if any of these could be shared with another juggler.

What can be passed across to another person without it creating lots of difficulties or taking lots of energy from you to pass them over. We’re looking for a smooth transition here like a circus act, not just randomly lobbing baubles across a room like a hand grenade. That is unlikely to reduce any level of stress for you or anyone else in the room.

Job number 2

Try and work out: do the baubles change on different days and with different environmental or internal pressures?

Does the work stuff become more delicate the closer a deadline gets? Does the house stuff become less precious if there’s nobody coming round that week? Try and allow for some flexibility in your categorisation of the baubles.

Things change and so do the pressures and expectations but sometimes when we’re too busy getting though the day, and we forget to adjust the categorisation of our baubles. This is when we end up feeling like everything is heirloom and MUST NOT DROP. This is unsustainable as none of us are magicians, we’re just jugglers.

If you can be flexible, it means that you don’t end up ONLY juggling the precious handmade family heirlooms because let’s face it, nobody needs that level of pressure, and nobody’s hands can move fast enough to keep all those baubles safely in the air.

Job number 3

What can give? What is a plasticky, Poundland bauble that if dropped either rolls away to be thought about another day or bounces so that you can catch it when you’ve got the space in the pattern to do that.

I think this if often the hardest bit to work out; when we’re busy and stressed, everything feels important, none of it feels like it can be dropped. So how do you work this bit out without feeling like you’re not doing something properly?

I’d suggest thinking about values; think about those parts of your life that matter to you. What is it about each bauble that’s important. Who is it important to and why? How soon do you need to complete that task and who expects it? Is it just you or are there consequences?

If you can think about these details, you create opportunity to unpick the massive pressures we put ourselves under and see that some things have more consequence than others and some consequences matter more than others. This is the start point of recognising what can drop.

Job number 4

Consider your surroundings: is there a way you can metaphorically soften or rubberise your floor so that if things do drop they are less likely to have drastic or catastrophic impact?

I may be stretching my metaphor a little thin here but essentially what I’m saying is what can you do to your environment to help you if things do drop:

Can you create a safety net to catch the baubles that fall?

Can you reduce the impact of the fall if it does happen?


So, in summary, when your feeling calm and not in anxiety/ stress mode, perhaps once you’ve laid your baubles down for the night or you’re between performances, can you:

1) List your baubles and start to describe how they impact on you:

  • Think about all the things you need and want to do over the next few weeks

  • Think about what on this list makes you feel stressed and what makes you feel ok

2) List which of these can you take off your immediate list

3) List which you can ask someone else to take on

4) Think in detail about the remaining tasks and how they change over time and circumstance

  • Which are plastic? When and why?

  • Which are glass? When and why?

  • Which are handmade family heirlooms? When and why?

5) What can you do to your context, your environment to create a safety net to reduces the chances or the impact of dropping an important one?

  • This could be as simple as having prompts on your phone to remind you when the kids Christmas performances (and ‘Christmas jumper day’ and ‘bring a toy day’ etc etc etc!) are, or perhaps having some ‘back up presents’ or an extra bottle of wine and bag of crisps for when friends pop in to drop off a present and stay for the evening.

The scouts got one thing right: be prepared. Do this thinking when you feel ok and it'll help when things feel more stressed. Doing the thinking before hand really does take the edge off and helps downgrade some of the baubles from glass to plastic even if it’s just because you’ve taken something off the ‘currently active, things to do list’, and downgraded to the ‘somewhat sorted list’.

So, all in all , your task this week is to :

Share the baubles, categorise, downgrade where possible and create a safety net.

You’re aiming to juggle less baubles, mix in more plastic and you want to be juggling over a over a mattress. That’s got to be better than being blindfolded, juggling who knows what but it all feels precious, over a concrete floor on the high wire of stress, anxiety and overwhelm!

Ho ho ho to my festive metaphor and festive fun to one and all, find the little moments of peace if you can.

I’m off in search of a mince pie and some plastic baubles.

Thanks for reading


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