Balls & Boxes – A Delegation Metaphor – Part 1

This is part 1 of a multi-part series of posts that describes a metaphor for how our work life, personal life, and delegation of tasks all fit together to fill our boxes with all different sizes of balls.

Let’s get started:


Imagine a box.  Let’s say it about the size of a shoe box.  Inside this box is your work life.  All of the things that you do at work are individual balls inside this box.  The bigger the ball, the more important the responsibility.  The biggest balls–maybe 3, 4, or 5 of them are your primary responsibilities.  The things that affect your employment.  If these things don’t get done, you’ll be fired.  Everything else that you do are smaller balls fitted in around the big balls to fill your box.

For example, if you’re a Sales Manager your Big Balls might be

  1. Sell product A
  2. Sell product B
  3. Recruit staff
  4. Training & Mentoring
  5. Writing sales orders

In addition to the Big Balls, you have a bunch of smaller balls to tend to as well.  these additional 12-15 smaller balls are other tasks you’re responsible for but are not critical like your top five. As long as you take care of these smaller things consistently, you don’t have a problem.  Yet, if you neglect one of them for too long, all of a sudden it will become a big ball that must be tended to or bad things can happen.  Your small balls might look something like this:

  1. Your own expense reports
  2. Approving your Direct’s expenses
  3. Collaboration with the Marketing Team
  4. Vehicle procurement
  5. IT requisitions
  6. etc.
  7. etc.

These probably aren’t exactly right, but you get the idea.

So here is your box:Doesn’t that box look great?  All of the balls fit so nicely together with a little bit of room around the edges but not too much empty space?  Is that how your box is?  I know mine’s not.  Mine looks more like this:







Right next to your work box is another box–your personal box.  It’s set up the same way but with non-work tasks such as your spouse, kids, hobbies, etc.



The line between these two boxes is often referred to as work-life balance.  That’s not a very good term.  If you asked almost anyone which is more important-work or personal life-nearly everyone would agree that personal life is their priority.  The problem is that, if we aren’t diligent every day, our work life can start to push into our personal life.  You only have 168 hours a week-just like everyone else.  If the work box starts taking more time, effort, and energy than your personal life, these boxes quickly get out of balance.

This is a conversation for another day but just being aware of this tendency will help.

That’s a good foundation for understanding how our lives are like a couple of boxes filled with balls of all different sizes.  Come back tomorrow to see what to do what your boss drops a big ball into your neat and tidy little Work Life box.


Here’s a hint–don’t ignore it.  🙂


This series was inspired by a Manager Tools Podcast.  Thank you Mark and Mike. 

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