Written by: Veenu Aulakh

I did not send out my newsletter last week. You might think I just ran out of steam — and last week was pretty packed — but in fact this was an intentional decision.

I have been working with a coach for the last few years, and she helped me come to that decision. In fact, she has helped me start to create a longer-term plan for sustaining myself in my job. For those of you who may have pondered whether a coach is useful, I am here to tell you that if you find the right coach, they can be invaluable in helping to stay sane.

One important insight she shared with me is this concept that we all have way too many balls in the air that we are juggling in life. However, not all balls are equal. There are crystal balls, rubber balls, and clay balls. As we think about our work and how we spend our time, we need to think about which ball represents each activity.

We don’t want to drop crystal balls. These are the most precious tasks that are critical to our success and typically cannot be completed by anyone else. Hopefully we don’t have too many of these balls in our lives. I think the most useful part of this analogy is that it pushes us to identify our crystal balls. For me, these are things related to funding, sustainability of the organization, and launching new work. Also, my family is a crystal ball that I can’t ever drop.

Rubber balls are things that if we let drop can either be picked up by someone else or will bounce back without really hurting anything. Obviously we can’t let the rubber balls bounce for too long or they will start rolling away and might trip us up down the road. But instead of worrying about dropping these balls, we can think about who might be able to pick them up or when we can re-engage with them later.

And the clay balls are things that if they break, at least they weren’t too expensive. There will always be things that hit the floor, but we can make sure they are the right things—the balls that won’t cost us and won’t do a lot of damage. My email last week was a clay ball. I don’t intend to drop it too often, but I have decided I’m shifting to a biweekly format (unless I’m super inspired and can’t wait a week).

So, why am I telling you all this? With all the changes that are coming down the pike with the new Republican repeal-and-repeal bill, we may find ourselves with even more balls in the air than we have had in the past. That means it’s even more critical that we find ways to sustain ourselves without getting weighed down by the tweets and the repeal talk. By keeping our eyes on the right balls, we can make sure we are able to stick with this important work for the long run.

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