Sometimes I feel like I’m juggling hats. (Or juggling geese, take your pick.) You know the feeling, I’m sure.
There’s the job I do during the day, which involves thinking and typing and doing things with words. I sit in a cubicle, drink at the water cooler, and wear office-appropriate clothing.
There’s the job I do at Turtleduck Press…actually two jobs, if you count being the head editor as separate from being one of the authors in our co-op model. That also requires a small-business hat and a collaborative mindset. (Shameless plug: I’m blogging over there this week about fanfiction, cosplay, and other geeky crafts.)
There’s Being A Writer — which includes social media, critiquing other writers’ work and getting my own work critiqued, reading fiction and non-fiction and blogs to expand my knowledge…oh yeah, and actually writing (and the other parts of the process, like research and planning and editing). And I haven’t even gotten to the part about submitting to slush piles or doing the tech stuff necessary for self-publishing online.
There are a couple of big events that are coming up in my life and require much research and planning (more about those another time).
Plus making sure there’s food in the fridge and clean socks in the drawer, and how long has it been since I vacuumed? And I also need time to veg out and hang with loved ones and move my body and pursue other hobbies and remember that a “me” exists apart from what I’ve already mentioned.
I don’t have kids or pets to take care of (yet!), but I know many of you do.
I can handle wearing two hats in a day. In fact, I don’t know what to do with myself otherwise. It’s when they start to multiply that I run into trouble. One day late last year, I had a hectic day at work, then squeaked in a visit to a house for sale, then spent a couple of hours at my writers’ group. By the time I got home, I didn’t know who I was supposed to be.
Here are some things I do to keep all my hats in the air (wait, this metaphor has seen better days):
- Make lists. Lots and lots of lists. That way you’re not stressing out trying to keep everything in your head. Shorter is better so you have half a chance of crossing everything off.
- Use downtime. On my lunch hour, I can usually be found with a netbook or a printout in front of me. Most of my reading happens on the subway.
- Be imperfect. Sure, I’d like my home to be clean all the time and my stories to be polished within an inch of their lives before I turn them in to my critique group, but it’s never going to happen.
- Feed your soul. I do yoga to practice being mindful. I knit to create something that’s concrete and doesn’t have all the pressure attached. When I’m being good to myself, I go for walks.
- Remember to play. I could get more done if I didn’t go dancing every couple of weeks. Sometimes I wish I could train myself not to need vegging-out time. But that stuff’s important too.
I try to remember to do all these things, but it’s hard, and I’m always looking for more ways to get more done, I mean achieve balance. Okay, maybe both. So I’m opening it up to you.
Update: For a good article on “using downtime”, see How to Publish Daily When You Have a 9-5 Job. He’s talking about blogging, but you could use his suggestions for a variety of different hats.
For more on juggling and “being imperfect”, try FlyLady. My favourite tip from her is to set a timer. She says, “You can do anything for 15 minutes.”
What’s your best tip for juggling hats (or geese) without losing your mind?