As business owners, we are used to constantly juggling multiple tasks, projects, ideas, priorities! But how long can we keep up the circus tricks on our own?

APVA member Suzanne Ekpenyong shares with us her thoughts on juggling as a business owner, and the best way you can ensure you avoid the big drop…

“Through the art of juggling, balls, or other ‘props’, are thrown up and then cascade down again, only to be thrown up again, whilst others cascade down and so the motion continues simultaneously until one or more balls may eventually drop, or the juggler decides to catch them all.

Many props can be juggled at one time, but even the most skilled jugglers have their limits. According to Guinness World Records, the most balls ever to be juggled simultaneously is 11 and this lasted for 23 consecutive catches!

The concept of juggling is used widely these days, we often hear the expressions “I juggle this, that and the other” or “life is a juggling act”. As business owners, we may juggle many aspects of our lives, trying to fit everything in for the perfect work / life balance and perhaps also trying to make the most out of our many ideas in the precious time we have.

However, all entrepreneurs are different and approach business in a range of ways. In my view, we fall into one of two main categories: the first is made up of those who throw one ball up and down continuously, perfecting the throw and focussing on the catch. They might introduce another ball, but only once they’ve mastered the perfect technique. The second category is made up of people who start with one or two balls and quickly start juggling, adding more and more, quickly establishing methods of how to manage the new additions.

Both categories have positive and negative points: focus and perfection driven into one activity concentrates your expertise, however it could be seen as simplistic. Being able to multi-task, or juggle, is great for providing many solutions and it can mean having several income streams – but does it dilute your expertise? Let’s face it, throwing a ball up and down doesn’t look as impressive as juggling, but you’re less likely to drop the ball!

I think that Virtual Assistants tend to fall naturally into the second category and may also assist business owners in this category. We are masters of multi-tasking and love to do it for other people too – but that’s a whole lot of juggling and we need to be skilled at catching all the props and not letting any drop!

I am definitely in that category, both as a Virtual Assistant assisting business owners, joining in with their juggling acts and also as a business owner myself. It’s difficult to stop at just one idea once you develop the entrepreneurial mind-set of working for yourself and making your dreams become a reality. The concept for my business, Bilingual Solutions, is to provide solutions for international businesses through communicating in different languages. So, the scope for activity and growth is very broad – there are over 6000 languages in the world and I only speak three! There is also a huge range of services that could be offered to international business people. Currently, I offer translation, language coaching and international virtual assistance – it’s a one-stop service provider for individuals and businesses with a global outlook, who may lack time or language skills. My mind runs wild with all of the tasks and services that my business will be able to juggle!

It can be tricky to control your galloping mind and your ambitions when you’re a creative person with a flair for business, so how can you manage your noisy brain without suppressing your ideas? How can you be great at juggling tasks, but still hone your expertise in a particular area?  Studies have shown that whilst people may actually feel productive when multi-tasking, they are actually not being that efficient. I can recognise that being a single-tasker and chunking (devoting chunks of time to specific tasks) is effective and I do train my brain to chunk, but I have the soul of a creative multi-tasker and I naturally want to be faithful to myself and combine both!

Aside from using online tools to plan, track tasks and note ideas for business growth, here are a few of my own tips for drawing on the different aspects of your character and skills in order to provide clients with the best possible service:

  1. Be mindful and consciously present in everything you undertake. Give each task your full attention! A wandering mind can dilute your ability to excel in the moment.
  2. If the wandering happens naturally, the practice of mindfulness does suggest that you pause to note down the thought. So, embrace that moment, but nip it in the bud and briefly write down your idea as it comes to you, however crazy or irrelevant it seems, and then go back to the main task in hand.

I believe that everything is possible, but I have to recognise that I can’t personally do everything at once, especially whilst I’m trying to focus!

  1. Transform these thoughts into plans, when you are able to dedicate some time to them. Your new dreams should be added to your life plan and business plan. Never allow your focus to suppress your creative side!
  2. Be realistic about your current resources and what you will need in order to grow. Money, time and people spring to mind! If, like me, you want your dreams to reach fruition quickly, then consider how collaborating and outsourcing certain tasks can help your business’ success rate. You can outsource in order to offer new, but relevant, services to your portfolio (in my case, to skilled speakers of other languages so I can offer a broader range of services to my clients). You can also outsource tasks related to business management and development or administration to a Virtual Assistant so you can concentrate on the essence of your business.

Networking online and in person can help you to meet talented individuals for future collaborations.

As with any skill, there are many ways to juggle, many types of props too (plates, clubs, balls or fruit to suggest a few!). You can practise the art of juggling in many different styles; with impressive tricks or number of props – I’ve even seen a juggler use their feet as well as their hands! Some jugglers perform alone, others in pairs or groups – I guess a juggler’s dream could eventually be to lead a troop of jugglers and never have to juggle on their own again… As for the man who juggled 11 props all by himself, I bet he didn’t get to that level without training, time and dedication.

Remember, even the most skilled jugglers have their limits, just find the method that’s right for you and don’t let a single prop drop!”

Suzanne Ekpenyong, Bilingual Solutions Ltd

If you want to find out more about APVA and how it can support you in launching or growing your VA business, please do get in touch.