Juggling Elephants: An Easier Way to Get Your Most Important Things Done–Now! by Jones Loflin and Todd Musig
Ah, business training parables. I have read too many of them. I guess I am more than a little cynical when I pick one up anymore. Most are contrived stories, about 100 pages of large font type, teaching some simple concept with the care and tenderness of a treasured faberge egg. While they teach the principle in an format that is easily digested, they don’t delve into the topic enough to provide much knowledge, background or depth. They tend to be like a quick sugar hit, the Krispy Kreme of the self improvement world.
Juggling Elephants follows this same format. We are told the story of a man who takes his daughter to the circus even though he is overwhelmed with everything in his life pressing down on him. He has so much to do, he feels guilt for taking time to take his daughter out for the evening, but knows he should be spending more time with her. As “luck” would have it, he ends up sitting next to a ringmaster from another circus, there to check out how a friend’s troupe is doing. The ringmaster instantly reads him and suggests that he needs to stop “juggling elephants” and get his “circus” in order. Naturally, the ringmaster invites the man back the next day to teach him the secret of being a ringmaster.
The rest of the story lays out how a ringmaster controls the show and how it applies to managing personal lives. The man quickly adopts the practices and becomes a master of controlling everything around him, becoming hyper-productive and accomplishing all his wildest dreams. He even loses all the weight he has always wanted and improves his marriage. Amazing.
The book is filled with little “pearls” of wisdom, each on its own page with a nice picture of an elephant. Some of these include:
The result of juggling elephants is that no one, including you, is thrilled with the performance.
The ringmaster cannot be in all three rings at once.
The key to the success of the circus is having quality acts in all three rings.
Every act must have a purpose.
Intermission is an essential part of creating a better circus performance.
So why did I give this short book four stars? I usually won’t give this type of parable more than two at best. Well, to my surprise, I learned a concept I find useful. I can only concentrate on one thing at a time. In order to have good performance, I should have a prioritized list of acts (multiple meanings to this word… get it?) for each ring of my life and be able to move between them with speed and ease. A ring represents an area of focus, such as career, relationships and self. GTD teaches this as well, using the weekly review as a mechanism to plan and prioritize the task lists. I like the concept of grouping the many areas of focus into three rings, though. That is a number I can keep in my head easier. Lining things up by priority puts the most important things on stage first. That is good thing to remember.
Juggling Elephants is a short read, a couple hours or so long. I think this one may be worth it.