Kristen Croom, MLS(ASCP)CMMBCM, ASCLS Region X Director

Do you ever get the feeling that you are the ill-prepared ringmaster in your very own three-ring circus? Lions and clowns are running around, and the spectators have no idea what is going on. The ringmaster is trying her, or his, best to maintain order and create an enjoyable experience for the audience, turning the occasional unplanned chaos into part of the show.

I have recently concluded that my life is a circus. The three rings are divided into the crucial areas of my life. My first ring is the lion’s den, also known as work. This ring is the most dangerous, necessary, and profitable act in my circus. The danger comes if this ring is ignored—it will usually cause massive destruction for the rest of the circus.

The second ring is the clown cars: our ASCLS activities and events. I designated this as a clown car because of the fun group of individuals that I work with on the ASCLS activities. This ring works because of the teamwork from multiple individuals with multiple personalities coming out to work together.

The third and final ring, the high-wire act, represents personal time. This is my family and self-care. Sometimes it gets overlooked at the circus, but it requires great skill to perform and has an amazing safety net should you fall.

I have four tips on how to manage your different rings to become a successful ringmaster. These tips acknowledge the differences of each ring and utilizes them to maximize enjoyment and engagement.

1. Schedule time for each act and dedicate the time necessary for the performance. As I eluded to earlier, if the lions are ignored, they will get hungry and eat the guests. Similarly, if work is ignored for other priorities, you may find yourself without a job. I am not suggesting that you spend all your time on this one ring—we are not running a zoo or a safari. The idea behind scheduling your time is to try your best to fit all three performances in your life.

These performances can be as long or as short as the ringmaster chooses. Just remember that an almost equal distribution of performances among the three rings provides an enjoyable and diverse show. When possible, remember that it is usually preferable to keep the rings separate. Do not let the lions and the clowns play together too much or someone will end up suffering.

2. Do not create an extra act if you do not have the time or capacity to handle this extra work. As you are running your circus, remember that adding another ring to the circus may cause more chaos than benefit. However, sometimes we are not given the choice to add more workload to our lives. In this case you may need to evaluate the rest of the circus and see what can be reduced to allow for the extra act. Please be mindful what is reduced as this applies to all the rings.

3. Ask for help. This is where your clown buddies are an amazing resource. The ASCLS community provides multiple ways to ask for help and get feedback from your fellow laboratorians. This is also helpful when you have dedicated too much time to your clown ring and need assistance to finish the show.

Your ASCLS leaders understand that the circus is always evolving and something that we had time for at the beginning of the year may not be possible at this time. All you need to do is contact your president, region director, or anyone on the ASCLS staff and they can find someone to help you.

Please don’t remove the clowns from your circus. They provide a great stress relief for the lions’ cage, while providing you with entertainment and engagement.

4. Most importantly, don’t forget your tightrope walkers (yourself and your family). Since this is generally a quiet part of the circus, it can get overlooked by the ringmaster. It also can be the most entertaining and rewarding part of the circus.

Me time and/or family time is your safety net. A good tightrope walker never falls without something soft to land on and can always get back up and try again. However, when they safely make it across, everyone feels a sense of accomplishment.

Each circus is unique. As the ringmaster, it is your gift to organize it the way you see fit. We have all had those audience members that don’t agree with the program and want to make changes. As the ringmaster, it is ultimately your decision. Your ASCLS leadership is here to help and support you in any way we can. Remember, the ringmaster should have fun running the circus!