I was six when I first saw a street performer. At the time, I didn’t even know the word “juggling”, but I was mesmerized by the parade of colourful balls in the air nonetheless. How quick must his hands be! Tugging at my mom’s T-shirt, I stood there for half an hour and watched his whole performance.
As I grew up, I have unconsciously become a professional juggler as well – only that my performance is not as fancy, and the balls I juggle are much, much heavier. Family, friends, health, work – one slip of the hand, and everything would come tumbling down.
I believe we have all experienced that same feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we have to do, tasks we have to complete and people we need to be with. Therefore, I would like to share with you my take on this matter:
The Four Burners Theory
According to The Four Burners Theory by David Sedaris: family, friends, health and work are the four burners of a stove (which is your life). In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.
Life is filled with tradeoffs.
In The Downside of Work-Life Balance, James Clear mentioned two methods he tried before:
“Can I succeed and keep all four burners running?
Perhaps I could combine two burners?”
However, after a brief period of experimentation, he realized: life is filled with tradeoffs. As much as we would like to be the best employee, parent, husband/wife and friend at the same time, we simply do not have the energy or time to do so. Should you take on this extra project at work or should you go to the party your friend in college is holding? Should you take a nap to rejuvenate yourself or help your son with his art homework?
It is difficult to choose. However, that does not mean all we can do is throw our hands up and yell in frustration, “It’s impossible!” So get ready to take some notes!
1. Let go of unimportant things and people.
Have you ever been wondering along the lines of “why do I never have time for things I deem important?” Have you tried to make time for your family but found your schedule filled to the brim by gatherings and parties?
Think. Prioritize. Act.
Think about what is important. Prioritize your activities. Take action and clear your schedule of things that you are simply going out of courtesy. Those six o’clock drinks after work? That golf game that you are not really that interested in? That high school friend you haven’t seen and talked with for years?
Let them go. Get some rest, talk with your kids about school, or even just cuddle with your husband/wife a bit. It might sound ironic, but the fewer things you put on your schedule, the more fulfilling you feel.
2. Focus on one thing at a time. Be efficient.
It’s too often that we believe we can simultaneously take care of multiple things at the same time. Typing out that proposal while taking side glances at your kid to make sure he didn’t swallow a Lego. Scrolling through Facebook to catch up with everything in the world while talking to a friend.
Earlier research has shown that multitasking undermines efficiency in work because extra time and effort is spent on shifting mental gears as we switch between different tasks. 
Therefore, instead of trying to do 10 things at the same time, focus on completing the task on hand. You might find yourself with a lot more time in the end!
3. Reflect, reflect, reflect.
After every day, take a short time to think about what you want to do and what you have done. Do they match up? Is there anything you can do to improve?
Think about things like: do you enjoy what you are doing right now? If you want to take a step and make a change, what do you want to achieve? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to spend more time with your family? Do you want to get higher recognition at work?
If you are satisfied with how things are right now – that is great! If it is the contrary though, plan carefully and discuss with your loved ones about how you want to readjust. It might take a little time, but the result would definitely be fruitful.
Every choice has a cost.
In the end, we are all a bit greedy – but just like every story, no one could truly have it all. We need to remember that every choice has a cost, and we just have to make sure that as we juggle in life, we choose the things that are the most important to us.
|||^||LAUGH, KOOKABURRA A day in the bush, a night at home. David Sedaris The New Yorker|
|||^||The Downside of Work-Life Balance, James Clear|
|||^||Multitasking undermines our efficiency, American Psychological Association|