Best Practices

Spinning plates

Published Jun 16, 2014

Entrepreneurs, small business owners, support organization leaders, we have something in common: We are all plate spinners.

spinning plates

At any given time, we’ve got a whole bunch of plates spinning, and we have to make sure they don’t fall to the ground. No one tells us to go home at 5 o’clock. No one tells us the priorities for the week. There is always more to do. We have to figure out how to keep the plates spinning.

Early in my career, a wise woman told me something very important about plate spinning: not all plates are alike. Some plates are china: we have to make sure they spin all the time because if they fall they will break into a million pieces. Some plates are metal. If they fall it will make a huge noise, but we can get them spinning again. And the paper plates are no big deal. The trick is to figure out which plates are which.

So every day I make sure my fine china is humming along. I give the metal plates a quick flip to keep them spinning. And if I have time I pay attention to the paper plates. And practically every day a new plate presents itself, and I have to decide whether to pick it up and start it spinning.

How do we keep all the plates spinning? Take a break. I know that’s counterintuitive, but sometimes not working helps me work harder. Maybe it’s a quick walk around the building. Maybe it’s a five minute conversation about the last movies you saw. Maybe it’s checking out a funny website. One of my colleagues chose to go to a lunchtime yoga class, even though she’d been out of the office and was buried in emails. Afterward, her comment: “That was such a good call to go. I feel like I can face my desk again.”

Which plates will you spin today?

Image credit: Flickr user Antony Stanley

Content contributed by Kate Pope Hodel of MOSourceLink, a proud affiliate of U.S. SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.