Okay, so if you know me, you know that title is misleading. A juggler is probably the last thing I ever should consider being. But, when Kait commented on something I’d posted on twitter that I should be the voice of the juggling parent, that’s what popped into my head. And following that, the song “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.”
Thankfully, we’re not talking about actual juggling. I don’t have the hand-eye coordination for that(or doing pretty much anything while walking). Rather, all the balls we have to keep in the air. And I’ll admit, I have a tendency to drop those too.
I’ve been asked more than once what my secret is to getting things done. And honestly? I’m usually not sure what to say. I make lists: of goals, of deadlines, of ideas. If it wasn’t for those lists, I probably wouldn’t get anything done.
So, what do I do to get things done?
I have always been a morning person. Yes, I’m one of those annoying people who can be awake early without a problem. Right now, I wake up at 4 in the morning. My kids, at 4 and 7, rarely sleep later than 6 even when they don’t have school. So, by the time I get my first cup of coffee and sit down at the computer, I have about an hour and a half to write. When I first started to get up earlier, after my first NaNoWriMo in 2010, I thought 5:30 a.m. was early. Now, a lot of times, I’m awake even before 4.
With two younger kids, it’s not always easy to stick to a routine. But, I’ve found one that’s flexible enough to work around them. Between the kids waking up and getting them on their buses(that come about 15-20 minutes apart), I wash dishes and any other chores I can get done in that time. My daughter has started packing her own lunch, so that’s one less ball I have to keep up in the air. After they’re on their way to school, I finish chores and go for a walk(weather permitting), then usually eat breakfast while I read blogs and catch up on other social media. After breakfast, I usually go straight down my daily to-do list. I always try to get to all my writing goals first, but if I didn’t do that before the kids were up, I get to it now. Then, I worry about anything else I have on the list.
I’ve mentioned my lists a couple times. I have one on my phone listing out all my story ideas, and I have them broken down. The longest section is the ones I want to plot, then once plotted, they get moved to the ‘to draft’ list then to the ‘to revise’. This is pretty much how I figure out what to work on next, although I may skip over some if another one is speaking to me more.
I also have a calendar to schedule out my deadlines for each project. I use that to make my lists of yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily to-do lists. I even have a list of the crutch words I need to search & destroy when I’m editing. I may go slightly overboard with my lists, but it helps keeps me on track.
This is really the only other thing. I try to use all the little moments through the day. When I’m waiting for the kids’ buses, I might check my email on my phone. Or take my notebook with me to do some plotting. Or just take the e-reader out with me.
That’s really it. One thing that probably helps is that my kids have always been independent, especially when it comes to playing. Not having to entertain them constantly does make it easier for me to get to my own things. I know my routine wouldn’t work for everyone: I don’t have a day job, my kids are old enough to do a lot of things on their own, and are pretty independent.
When you’re trying to juggle all the balls, I’d say it’s inevitable at least one will drop. Sometimes it feels like I’m dropping all of them. Like when I couldn’t remember what I’d done with the new books of checks when I needed to pay the bills. Or losing the order form for my daughter’s school pictures. Yet, I can remember just about every detail of a character’s back story.
But, even when those balls drop, you have to pick them back up. I did find those checks(and put the rest where they should be). I did get pictures ordered(through the website instead of sending the form in). I did finally remember to eat breakfast this morning(may not have been the first time I almost forgot). Because I’m not just a writer, or a parent, or a spouse. I’m all of these. I’m sure many of you are too.