Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | January 31, 2012

Thoughts on How to Multitask without Losing Your Sanity

Juggling is a learned skill. The term “implies a continuous
pattern where each time an object is caught, it is thrown
back up again.” Jack Kalvan


Definition of JUGGLE according to merriam-webster

3 : to handle or deal with usually several things (as obligations) at one time so as to satisfy often competing requirements <juggle the responsibilities of family life and full-time job – Jane S. Gould>


“You CAN do everything, just not all at once”, a friend told me as she lent me her piano, the one thing she’d decided to drop from her life to make time for writing.

I’ve taken a different approach. Rather than drop things from my life, I juggle. When one thing is up in the air, I’m working on something else.  My life is complicated by the fact that I don’t have one 9-5 job, in fact, I’ll be getting three W-2  forms and a 1099 this tax season. All of those jobs come with driving time, at-home prep work and hours that don’t fall into nice, neat patterns. I’m a musician and that means practice. I take time to exercise because if I don’t, I hurt. I write. I don’t do sleep deprivation anymore and things that allow me to eat and pay bills now get priority. And we won’t talk about housekeeping.

I’m pretty good at this juggling thing, but I’d like to get better at it. I dream that one day I’ll figure out a routine that allows me to practice my music and write every day of the year without dropping the ball once. I know, I know, that’s pure fantasy.

Some of my juggling tricks:

  1.     Juggling happens on a number of levels. There are some things that will happen every day or several times a week or every other week. Some things will be relegated mostly to summer months, and other things will only get a month out of the year to play.

 2.    I put in “groups” the things I want to do most regularly. So that, since I drive every day, that’s when I learn new songs. When traffic allows me to get to work early, that’s when I write in my journal.  I use mealtimes to check and respond to e-mail. On the days when my lunch hours are longer, I’ve been known to write and practice the accordion in my car. Social media is reserved for just before bed, and this may account for my muted presence on social media! My best success finding time for writing has been when I get up an hour early before work.

3.     Priorities. Everything else goes into the less structured parts of my day in the order of its priority.

4.     I use my waiting time efficiently. I always have writing or reading (and a few other projects in progress) with me for waiting time.

5.     Make lists. A list of projects, their respective tasks, and due dates is an essential sanity keeper.

6.    Schedule. Look through the week’s schedule and pencil writing dates with yourself into the empty spots.

7.    Work ahead. I have schedules that must be presented to someone once a week, so to save time, I work months ahead so that the final product only needs to be tweaked at the deadline.

8.    Let things go that are unnecessary or that aren’t important (gasp, blush!).

9.    Pair complementary tasks. I save my grocery shopping until I’m driving by the grocery store, pair cooking and laundry (washer and dryer are by my kitchen), and I tuck routine (mindless) tasks into any small space available.

10.   I take time for myself when I need it, even if it means I have to put all the balls down for a bit. It’s more productive to take a break than to force myself to complete a schedule that  produces lackluster results.

11.   When a ball falls, and it ALWAYS does, I pick it up and get it back in the air as soon as possible.

I’m sure your life is just as much of a juggling act as mine or more so. Do you have any tips to add to this list?


  1. Thanks Gwen. I needed that! Here’s another – TV rationing.


    • It’s kind of sad that it’s been so long since I actually watched television that I forgot about that one. Books on the other hand are my point of weakness.


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