How many plates do you keep spinning?
For many of us, the number (if high) is a badge of honor. The more we have going (programs, projects, meetings, etc.), the more important, the more successful, the more in demand we must be. Right?
I started musing on this while taking my shower yesterday...it was a mental detour from my review of what I was going to do that day.... who I needed to call, emails to return, writing assignments coming due, new clients and programs that required care and feeding. I was getting pretty stressed over how much was on my plate, and in my frustration, my brain took this detour.
The adage "Don't confuse activity with results" came rushing at me, quickly followed by another thought..."Was my busy-ness actually impeding my results?" Could I be spinning so many plates that it was just a matter to time before one (or more!) would come crashing down?
Then I literally stopped still in the shower, razor in hand, and had a scarier thought...
"Is there a subtle form of self protection and denial that goes on when we put all those plates a-spinning?" Could making ourselves too busy be a shield against the inevitable - and all too understandable - crash when something just has to fall? After all, won't the world see and forgive a slip up from someone who is clearly attempting the superhuman?
The reality is when we set too many plates (projects, meetings, deadlines) spinning, we set ourselves up for failure. A failure that might not feels like it's our fault. But it is.
By not consciously prioritizing and deciding which plates/projects to focus on, we loose control and almost certainly ensure that one of the really important ones will fall. By taking control and actively choosing what not to do, we gain both the time (and responsibility) to give our best creativity and ability to the deliverables we believe matter most.
And that's where fear can creep in. When we deliberately choose which projects and meetings and assignments to undertake, and execute to our best ability, then the results speak for themselves. Choosing the right things to focus on and then executing well yields the positive result we desire. Choosing the wrong things, or poorly executing does the opposite. And then - Yikes! We have only ourselves to blame - and the mistakes are harder to fix.
But regardless of whether overcommitting ourselves is a subconscious act to avoid responsibility or simply an inability to say "no", the result is the same: Something is going to come crashing down.
I finished my shower with a resolution: I will take some plates (projects, plans, people) and set them down, rather than worrying anxiously how to keep any of them from falling. I will own which plates I keep spinning, and hold myself accountable for the results.
What will you do?
(Cartoon provided thanks to Independent Audit Limited)