The Great Juggling Act

If nothing else, the past year has been a lesson in time management.

Managing time effectively isn’t really new to me. The difference is that, for the past seventeen years, school has always been Priority No. 1. It made things easy: school came first, and everything else just kind of fell into place around it.

Not so this year. The three major demands on my time (school, dayjob, writing/podcasting) all duked it out for the top spot, all demanding about the same level of attention and importance. This isn’t a unique situation. Heaps of people have families, jobs, school, and writing. There are tons of writers who wear many different hats. So how do you balance it all?

I’m still trying to figure this out. But I’ve discovered a few things.

Accept that your list of priorities is constantly updating itself.

Just because school isn’t always the top spot doesn’t mean that it never is. Right now, with my exams less than a week away, studying is taking precedence over The Next One, which I’m aiming to finish rewriting by early January. However, I work tomorrow night, which means that I have to upload Hapax-the-Podcast tonight, which means that this morning, finishing up Chapter 17 took precedence over studying.

Everything gets attention. The trick is figuring out what needs the most attention when.

Cut back where you can.

This can be hard, because often, the non-essential things are fun. And you don’t want to cut back too much, because the non-essential things help keep you sane. That being said, an “I’ll do it if I can” attitude helps. I liked choir…but I don’t get paid, I don’t pay them tuition, and there are plenty of other sopranos. Although I like singing, the consequences of putting it on the chopping block are relatively small.

Have some firm expectations.

I need to produce one podcast episode a week. End of story. It needs to go out. While in New Zealand, I was so homesick (and jobless) that I promised myself I would just never refuse a call from work. End of story. I get the call, I hop on the subway.

This goes back to the updating priority list. In a way, though, it’s easier to plan around certain immutable things. Knowing I need to upload a chapter by Sunday at 12:01 am makes it easier to schedule my week. Likewise, it’s a lot easier to simply assume I’ll be working particular days, and then treat non-calls as bonus time, than it is to pray I won’t get called in.

Ask for help.

My professors this term were amazing. I am so incredibly grateful that they were as understanding as they were. Every one of them was so supportive of my literary endeavours. Professors and bosses are people, too. Simply explaining the situation and asking for advice/consideration can go a long way towards easing the strain.

Accept that you will be tired.

But when you’re juggling this much, you will be tired. Even when you have time to socialize, you may need to sleep instead. It does suck. Let’s be honest—watching audio playback march across your screen at 3:00 a.m. isn’t fun. Forcing your eyes to stay open as you do your readings on the commute to work is kind of miserable. But sometimes, it’s necessary. Knowing that upfront makes it a lot easier to accept.

Besides, it’s not like you’ll never sleep again.

It worked during the Industrial Revolution, and it (mostly) works for me.

And that would more-or-less be how I survived this term. Next term, I won’t work, and I won’t be producing a podcast episode every week, but I will have a full courseload and ongoing writing stuff. Will it be the same kind of juggling act?

I guess we’ll find out.

Posted on December 14, 2012, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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