The Work-Play Tradeoff

playgroundWe recently saw an interesting study on how work affects high school students [pdf]. While the study is about high school students, we think us older “kids” can learn a thing or two from it as well.



How does work affect homework?

The researchers examined how each hour of paid work affected the way high school students spent the rest of their time. They found that each hour of work reduced homework time by about five minutes, on average.

Sleep less

They cut back more than twice that amount – ten minutes total – on sleep. Maybe young people really are looking at us as role models!

Screen pass

The single biggest activity that they reduced was screen time – the average student spent 24 minutes less for every hour worked. The researchers defined screen time as:

  • watching television and movies
  • using the computer for leisure (except games)
  • surfing the internet
  • participating in chat room discussions

Setting priorities

Previous studies have shown that working only has a small negative effect on an average student’s performance. The researchers in this study conclude that they may have explained part of the reason. It may be that students who work cut back mostly on non-productive activities.

Why do busy people get more done?


georgeThere’s that old saying, “If you want something done, get a busy person to do it.” I’ve found that on days when I have to get a lot done, I do. On days when there isn’t much on the agenda, I seem to step into a more leisurely pace and often don’t accomplish as much as I want. I do better when I keep a certain amount of stress on myself.



marylynnI’m with you, George. When I have a lot on the to-do list, I’m more focused and less willing to allow for diversions.



georgePeople who had juggled work and school were often my best employees. Their grades may have suffered a little, but the skills they learned about managing their time improved their performance in their full-time gig.



marylynnWhen I think back to my high school days, I had a part-time job. I was a straight “A” student and was involved in several extracurricular activities – band, theater, and the speech team. I don’t know how I did it all! I certainly always had something to do. I was practicing for a competition or a show, doing homework or working. As a result, I can’t tell you much about the hit TV shows in the late 80s.



georgeBut you know all about the music of that era! You’re a prime example of the students in this research study, Mary-Lynn. You pretty much eliminated unproductive play time. Your play time had a purpose.



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Don’t get too down on down time


marylynnBut I could have benefited from some play time just for fun. I could have used the time to relax and get in touch with myself.



georgeI completely understand what you’re saying. I think down time is so important. I often find that’s when I work out a solution to a problem that I’ve had trouble resolving. I may be looking at the screen, but I’m lost in my own thoughts. And it’s a good thing! I’m away from the pressure of the situation and my brain just flows.


In our down time, we may be more creative than we are in a more structured environment. So it’s good not to underestimate its value.

Work time is good because it helps us stay more focused.

Productive play is good because it helps us expand our capacity.

But be careful that you don’t get so busy that you don’t allow any time for purely play.

How has down time helped you?

You can share that with us by leaving a comment below, calling us at 888.455.BIGG or sending us an e-mail at

Thanks so much for checking in on us today.

Please join us next time when talk about what to do if life on your own terms creates conflict with the people around you.

Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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(Image in today's post by ba1969)

What You Can Learn From Jugglers

Are you fascinated by jugglers? We are! Around the holidays, we sent our newsletter subscribers a link to an amazing video of a guy juggling six or seven balls AND playing a song on a keyboard! 

How do jugglers keep all those balls going? Since we’re not jugglers, we did some research. We found step-by-step instructions to learn how to juggle, written by Dr. Craig Rusbult. He taught juggling at the University of Washington for ten years.

Can we learn anything from jugglers about balancing our professional and personal lives?

It turns out that we can!

Start with one ball.
You need to start with one ball and get used to the motion and pattern. Practice reaching the same peak time after time. It won’t be easy at first, but over time you’ll naturally control the ball.

To juggle work and life, start with one “ball” – work, family, you-time, or another area. Obviously, you can’t ignore the other areas, but you can, and must, FOCUS on one area to start.

Find the pattern in that area – take it to its peak while keeping it under control. Otherwise, it will control you.

Start adding balls, one at a time.
Once you’ve mastered one ball, add a second. Get used to juggling the two balls while staying in control. Then add another. You’ll see that it’s not that hard to juggle three balls because you only have one ball in the air at a time.

In your real life, add a second area and give it the attention it deserves. Then add a third. At any given moment, you’ll only have one ball in play. However, you’re always planning to put the next one in play. You’re juggling your life like a pro!

4 tips to become a great work-life juggler

  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

  • Find your rhythm
  • Consistency is the key – you know what to expect. You’ve established patterns of behavior. Your balls peak at the same height, which keeps your timing in check.

  • Keep it going.
  • Getting started is the hard part. Once you get it going and find your rhythm, it just naturally happens. You’re relaxed – you don’t have to force it, you’re just going with the flow.

  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Don’t worry about dropping the ball. You’re not perfect. Don’t expect yourself to be. Just smile and start juggling again!

How do you juggle all the balls in your life? Leave us a Comment.

Our Bigg Quote comes from Thomas Merton:

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity
but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

It’s fun to watch a juggler, but the act always comes to an end. Learn to juggle your life because your show must go on!

Next time, we’ll discuss what to do when you have more potential than your job offers. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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