Juggling Elephants

Jones Loflin

Juggling Elephants is a wonderfully lighthearted guide for everyone who feels like they’re about to be squashed by all they have to do. It will help you better focus your time and energy, so you’ll be able to enjoy more of the things that are important to you. Above all, it will teach you how to run your circus instead of letting the circus run you.

About the Author

Jones Loflin is an internationally-recognized speaker and corporate trainer. He is best known for his ability to deliver innovative yet practical solutions to today's work and life challenges. He is also the author of Getting the Blue Ribbon and co-author of Getting to It.

Forget Work Life Balance-Run Off To The Circus!

Last year I wrote an article on Linked In entitled, “Millennials Don’t Want Work Life Balance.” My purpose was to highlight the different attitudes about work across generations. It obviously struck a nerve because it has received over 600,000 views. As I read the many comments left by readers, several things became clear about how people feel about the concept of mixing work and life. They include:

• Technology makes it possible for us to have choices. Several people commented that if it weren't for advances in technology, we wouldn't have the opportunity to work from home, stay connected while out of the office, and keep in touch with friends and family while on the job.
• When given a choice, many people prefer to blend work and life activities instead of trying to keep them separate. I heard from lots of Gen Xers and even a Baby Boomer or two who expressed their desire to "mix it up" during the workday.
• As individuals we probably aren't as open to different work/life perspectives as we should be. If the right work is getting done in an organization, and employees feel like they are in an environment where they can deliver their best work, isn't that what really matters?

Whether your preference is balance, blend, or blur, I think there is a more important question to ask: “Is your approach moving you forward in the three key areas of your life?”

In my book, Juggling Elephants, I highlight that the key to work life satisfaction (or balance as some call it) is to manage your time like a successful circus. How does your approach to work/life address the needs of these three "rings?"

Work. Does your approach bring out your best work? And just as important, does it foster the best work of others on your team? As a manager are you more focused on outcomes... or HOW the work gets done? If your work is lacking because you are constantly blurring the lines and aren't able to focus on the task at hand, maybe a change in approach is needed.

Self. We have different "work rhythms." Some individuals like long periods of focus followed by extended periods of rest and renewal. Others have a "sprinter's mentality," and like short bursts. Either approach is fine... as long as you are taking care of your personal well-being. If you are constantly sacrificing what's important to you as an individual because you are so caught up in your work, it might be time to rethink your perspective.

Relationships. You may be advancing at work and succeeding at taking care of you, but how does your approach to work/life allow for the cultivation of relationships? As the ring suggests, this could be family, friends, and/or coworkers. We can't deny the importance of quality relationships in making us more effective in the other two rings. How often have you seen a fellow employee struggling to deliver their best work, and the problem was not work? It was due to a strained relationship that was emotionally, mentally, and even physically draining them.

As a leader in your organization, recognizing the need for each individual to address these three areas is critical. For example, some employees may not have the desire to cultivate strong relationships at work, and prefer to build those relationships outside the workplace. Others may feel differently and want those opportunities while on the job. Both perspectives are valid, as long as each can bring their best work, and foster the same in others. Some excellent questions to ask your team to start a discussion on this topic is:

Do we, by policy, culture, or leadership, encourage or discourage individuals from focusing one or more of these three areas? How could we improve?

The issue of how we do work will continue to be an important conversation for years to come as technology continues to transform our workplaces, and people with different perspectives try to find areas of consensus. What will NOT change, in my opinion, is that our individual success will be determined by how we choose to balance, blend, or blur the areas of work, self, and relationships. How well is your approach to work/life moving you forward in these three key areas?

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