How many balls can one person juggle?

I was at Pier 39 in San Francisco the other day and came upon a juggler. He was juggling three balls. Then out of nowhere another ball appeared, then between juggling the now four balls, he reached into his shirt and added yet another. I watched as he juggled the five balls and thought what an amazing talent. And finally, he added the sixth. Six balls, up in the air as they swirled with perfect precision only touching his hands for a millisecond rotating in their magical and rhythmic form.

As I watched, I became mesmerized by the balls.

I envisioned the balls as the many activities I have going on at one time: Red Ball – My Human Resources Career, Blue Ball – Non-profit Board Chair, Green Ball – Achieve in 5! Coaching, Orange Ball – Pro bono HR work, Brown Ball – New business venture, Purple Ball – Achievement U, Inc. (my nonprofit), and those are only the big things.

I started thinking, how many balls can one person effectively juggle? In this case, the juggler was able to effectively keep six balls up in the air, but his full concentration was on those balls. I looked up my question and apparently there are people who can juggle up to eleven balls, but only for a few seconds (according to The other thing that we probably all knew at some level, is that there is a science to juggling.

So, what is the science to juggling your many activities?

People who effectively juggle multiple activities have a few things in common:

1) They plan their day and their activities.

2) They focus on what is important. I love Stephen Covey’s time management quadrant that looks at what is important vs, what is urgent.

3) They do what they do well and have other people do the other things. If you have the money, hire an assistant or exchange services with someone. In other words, they know how to delegate.

4) They spend time each day on their most important activities. Whether that is exercise, writing, reading, or some other activity that moves their life in the direction that they want.

5) And they give full focus to the thing that they are working on.

How many things can you effectively juggle? Which of the five habits of effective jugglers are you not doing as well?

If you find that you are having difficulty juggling multiple priorities, pick one of the five habits above and incorporate it into your daily routine.


How many balls can one person juggle? — 5 Comments

  1. i myself have found that i have sufficient time to juggle each of my 6 distinct goals… and i have worked out a little loose schedule that allows me some time to blow off steam and play a bit between activities dedicated to my goals- and i have to say this was not the case before i read your book!!! seriously- when i dedicate a commitment of 5 minutes per goal, i find myself dedicating more to each, every day- and when i think about it- even if it ends up 1/2 hour or more per goal, per day- that’s still only 3 hours!!! what else am i going to do? play on facebook? watch TV??? rather work on my goals!!!

    • Great work Jenifer. I gave up TV a while ago. Sometimes I miss out on the conversations people have about a particular show and TV is such a part of our culture that it is a major decision to give it up. But then, we have to make major decisions in order to move our lives forward.

  2. There are many tricks that can be done from a 5 ball cascade, and many alternate patterns for 5 balls. Working on any of these will also help to solidify your 5 ball cascade, as well as keeping your practice more interesting. Among the things you might try are walking forward and backward, a 5 ball half shower, one under the leg and juggling at different heights. Any 5 ball trick will take a lot of work, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come easily. With continued practice, you will almost certainly exceed your expectations.

  3. The earliest record of juggling is suggested in a panel from the 15th Beni Hasan tomb of an unknown prince, showing female dancers and acrobats throwing balls. Juggling has been recorded in many early cultures including Egyptian , Chinese , Indian , Greek , Roman , Norse , Aztec (Mexico) and Polynesian civilizations.

  4. A pretty inauspicious beginning. had I not seen other people juggling 5 effortlessly, I probably would never have continued — it’s something I would have thought just wasn’t meant to be done. Wrong Wrong Wrong. I had always felt that I learned to do new things as quickly as the next person, and prior to learning 5, the longest I had spent on trying to learn anything had been a couple of months (in learning 4 balls).

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