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Juggling multiple roles: How to make many hats fit?

We all juggle a multitude of roles in our lives, aka hats – as a metaphor for this week’s post. What hat are you wearing right now? Are you wearing more than one perhaps?

I can think of a couple of hats I wear all the time: Wife, mom, coach, blogger, sister, friend and of course my own individual hat. We all want to be at our best while wearing these multiple hats. Surely, each hat brings along different responsibilities, which we try to manage the best possible way to avoid conflict and stress. How much of a juggler are we though? What happens when we wear more than one hat at a time? What if one of the hats (or more) no longer fits?

There is nothing wrong with juggling multiple hats. I mean, it is what most of us do on a daily basis. But are you doing it consciously? Are you aware of the different hats you wear and how they fit to your needs? Do you have clear boundaries in place to deal with the overlapping of different hats?

All this swapping of hats consumes a high amount of energy and time, thus learning how to wear this range of hat wardrobe is key to an efficient and successful management of your daily responsibilities.

Here are 5 things to consider while you juggle multiple hats:

1. Identify the hats you wear: First, you need to know exactly which hats are you wearing. What are your roles and responsibilities, how they relate to each other, what weight they have in your life. Grab paper and pen and write down the many hats you wear – spouse, parent, sibling, friend, professional, manager, business owner – and, of course, your own personal hat. After listing down all the hats you wear, identify their main attributes/ strengths as well as the struggles that come along with them. This full list or grid (whatever you decide to draw) gives you the big picture before you start analyzing closely the different hats.

2. Prioritize your hats: Now that you consciously know which hats you are wearing, go ahead and prioritize them. It can be using a scale or by attributing a sequential number to each hat; whatever helps you organize the list from the previous step into priorities. Prioritization is key to have a clear understanding of which hats are most important to you as well as how to manage the many hats you wear. Perhaps you put family first or it could be that family and work are rated equally important. This is your priority list, so make sure you are completely honest with yourself. By acknowledging your own values around your hats, you can act and decide deliberately. And do not forget about your own hat, the one that represents self-care.

3. Notice the accessories of each hat: Each hat has its own shape, color, texture, size. Taking a closer look at the different hats you are wearing and what you are doing while wearing them is paramount. If you have your business owner hat on, you have to coordinate your team, assess the financials, focus on product development, define a sales & marketing plan. Or if you are wearing your mom hat, you have to play with your kids, listen to their stories, bathe them, prepare their meals, help them with their homework or make sure they attend that zoom class. How productive and successful can you be if you are thinking about the argument you had with your spouse while attending a work meeting or answering your emails while listening to your kids? Think about the different activities of each role (aka, hat) and identify your behavior patterns and assumptions associated with them.

4. Look for overlapping hats: Do you prefer to use one hat at a time? Or are there times when more than one hat fits simultaneously? Notice how and when you usually wear these hats. Perhaps with your work hat on, you focus only on work-related tasks. Or maybe you call a colleague during lunch break to talk about your weekend plans. There is definitely no right answer when it comes to wearing one hat at a time or several at once. You are the one deciding what best serves your needs in terms of integration or separation of roles. What really matters is how you prefer to wear your hats, for this preference influences how you manage roles and boundaries as key to minimize conflict and stress.

5. Learn when to take the hat off: Juggling multiple roles is not a walk in the park, one of the reasons why boundaries are important. Learning how to manage your time and how to say no are two major aspects to consider. It may happen that while wearing your work hat, you receive a call from your kid’s school and need to put the mom hat right away. These daily interruptions – swapping of hats – cost you time and energy, so make sure you count with some extra time when planning your tasks. Then, there are those moments when you need to take the hat off completely. Learn how to say no to a task in detriment of another. Imagine that you are ready to turn off your laptop when your boss asks you for a last-minute meeting, and you have promised to pick up your kids that day. Make sure you know when to take one hat off to wear the other.

Wearing all these hats, one or several at a time, can take a toll in our wellbeing. There are times when conflict and stress are inevitable, hence the importance of knowing what hats you wear and when to wear them. If it turns out that a hat no longer fits, it means one of two things. You find a way to make it fit again, which can translate into conflict if not fitting to your needs or it can turn into a learning moment. Alternatively, you just put the hat aside knowing that a hat does not have to be worn forever and move on.



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