too many balls in the air

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

An allusion to the situation of juggler who is attempting to juggle an excessive number of objects.

Noun[edit]

too many balls in the air (plural only)

  1. (idiomatic) Too many tasks, responsibilities, or details to cope with or manage successfully.
    • 1989 July 27, Ian Gilmour, "Holding all the strings" (review of Macmillan, Vol. II by Alistair Horne), London Review of Books (UK) (retrieved 25 May 2014):
      [Prime Minister] Harold Macmillan frequently complained of having to keep too many balls in the air at the same time.
    • 1991 June 23, Carole Gould, "Mutual Funds: Drawbacks to Asset Allocation," New York Times (retrieved 25 May 2014):
      Some analysts say the mediocre performance of the asset-allocation funds may result from the massive amounts of data their managers must sort through: central bank policies, business cycles, stock values, inflation rates and sector performance in various markets, both here and abroad. They may simply have "too many balls in the air at one time," said Anthony J. Ogorek.
    • 2004 Oct. 7, Anthony B. Robinson, "Bush message is a broken record," Seattle Post-Intelligencer (retrieved 25 May 2014):
      If you get too many balls in the air, or are changing your focus too often, as one might argue President Clinton did in his first term, people have a hard time staying with you, much less following your leadership.
    • 2005 May 18, Liz Ryan, "No Sale? Don't Blame Your Boss," Businessweek (retrieved 25 May 2014):
      "He has too many balls in the air. He can't stay on top of initiatives from people who report to him. He's a terrible manager."