If I had to guess, I’d say that your life is a little bit like mine as you balance multiple responsibilities while trying not to neglect your health, family, or friends. There are times that the journey of life feels more like a juggling act!
I recently did a guest blog at Seriously Write (posted December 10, 2013) on this very idea of juggling life and the pursuit of dreams. As we journey through life, there are a few tips for successful juggling that also apply to everyday responsibilities.
1. Start small. Most instructions for juggling start with one ball and have you toss it back and forth for hours and hours until you could almost do it blindfolded before even adding a second ball or even dreaming about a third.
The same is true with life. Don’t jump into multiple responsibilities until you can handle a few well. After being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, I learned that I could realistically only handle small tasks in short increments unless I wanted to be slammed back into complete bed rest. So, I sub-divided and prioritized my household cleaning tasks into one critical job per day and gave myself permission to only get that one thing done. As I rebuilt my immune system with good nutrition, I slowly added other tasks, outings, and responsibilities into my schedule, always stopping whenever I felt overwhelmed and waiting again before adding something new.
2. Expect to drop balls. Even the experts drop things now and then, especially in private when they’re rehearsing a new act. Does a juggler quit? No. They just pick it up and start again. (Although back to point #1, consider stepping back if necessary but never quit.)
In life and writing, there will be days where supper didn’t get thawed out in time or you get a call from the child’s teacher or your book proposal was rejected. Cry. Groan. Pray. Then pick up the pieces and keep on going. Tomorrow is a new day with fresh mercies from the hand of God.
3. Trust the rhythm. The best juggling acts are those where the performer keeps up a steady banter with the audience. How can they do that? By trusting in the rhythm. After hours and hours of practice, much of juggling has become a matter of muscle memory. Their body simply knows where to be in order to handle the cascading balls.
In life, there is power in familiar routines. Routines like putting your purse or keys in the same place every day so you don’t waste time looking. Take those small steps from point #1 and create habits. By tossing a load in the washer before packing the kids’ lunches, it is ready to move to the dryer before I head out the door to take them to school … and is ready to fold when I return. By trusting the routines, I know certain things will get done consistently and that allows me to put my energy toward new things.
4. Keep your focus on one thing at a time. Watch a juggler’s eyes and you’ll soon discover that they focus on a spot directly in front of their face. This is the place where each airborne object flies by at the top of the arc. There are balls in each hand, some leaving and some arriving … but the juggler keeps focus on one ball at a time.
My to-do list can get overwhelming as I prioritize what order to do what, but once my day gets into motion, I try focus on one thing at a time. By giving it my undivided attention, I actually get it finished faster and with excellence. Word counts accumulate during the quiet morning hours while the kids are at school followed by day job tasks once the creative well dwindles. A quick nap, then home, family, and social media after school, and catch-ups once the younger kids are in bed. Like juggling, I focus on the highest priority at the moment.
5. Stay relaxed. A juggler in proper position keeps their arms relaxed near their waist and only makes small movements. The good jugglers don’t move their feet or chase frantically after out-of-control objects. If a routine is falling apart, they tend to stop, take a deep breath, gather their stuff, and then start again.
When my life gets out of control — and with a special needs hormonal teenaged daughter with autistic characteristics, it happens often! — I’m still learning to stop, take a deep breath, pray for wisdom, accept God’s peace, and then carry on. When I’ve pushed too hard for too long and my body starts to remind me it needs a break, I’ve learned to step back and get rested before trying to juggle again.
What about you? How well do you juggle? What’s your secret to keeping multiple projects and responsibilities going at once?