The secret to juggling 12 roles

Wednesday 26 February 2020
Parent. Spouse. Friend. Mentor. Club member. Client. Volunteer. What’s the secret to keep these plates spinning?
a woman sitting down juggling

Your job title is only a small fraction of who you are as a human being. You’re not just a manager – chances are you’re a parent, spouse, friend, mentor, club member, client, supporter or volunteer. You’re likely juggling many competing demands right now as you’re reading this. So the key question is: how can you make sure you’re dividing your attention and energy equally according to need?

“Few leadership books mention juggling,” argues Emma Turner, founder of NewEd - Joyful CPD and author of Be More Toddler. “It’s almost as if once you enter the hallowed halls of leadership, you must shed your mortal skin and become an untouchable and committed superhuman. You shall not be distracted by the call from the nursery to say the baby has a temperature or from the care assistant who has found your mum has had a fall again.”

It is this lack of discussion that can lead to the misconception that leadership is not for the many, but for the chosen committed few. The way we look at leadership needs to change.

Lucy Matthews, managing director of Marvellous PR, juggles a lot of roles. “I am a mother of three; I volunteer; I’m part of a drama group; I’m learning Spanish.”

She does all of this in addition to running her own business. She cites The One Thing by Gary Keller as the book that helps her create a plan to keep everything spinning.

“At the start of the day, even the night before, I ask myself: what is the one thing I need to do now, tomorrow, this morning, this week, month or even year, that will make everything else easier to manage? Then I make sure I do that before anything else.”

Organising and keeping track of your priorities is clearly key, but learning to delegate is also vital if you’re fighting fires on all fronts. “Nobody is infallible,” says Susy Roberts, executive coach and founder of people development consultancy Hunter Roberts. “Those who thrive at multi-tasking are those who have the confidence to recognise that they can’t do it all and need the support of a trusted team.”

While you need to juggle everyone else’s demands, it’s very important to leave time for yourself too. Emma Turner realised this when she found she had become “secretly envious” of how her very young children were behaving. “They frequently say ‘go away,’ often accompanied by the angry flourish of a lobbed building block,” she says.

Turner found herself wishing that she had that level of directness. “We are so quick to deny ourselves the chance to do something we like in leadership and we then wonder why we feel depleted or frustrated or snappy.”

Helping others with their challenges begins with helping that other very important person: you.

If you’re looking for more ways to manage your team and stay organised, check out our articles on how to be the most productive human alive and how to never miss a deadline again.