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I once saw a performer in a Cirque du Soleil show who juggled seven balls at once. He wasn’t able to do it for too long before he started tossing balls out from the moving circle. I have never been able to juggle. Sometimes, I’m challenged to toss one ball back and forth between my hands.
I can juggle projects, though. I have gotten very good at doing it over the years. It’s not surprising since I have to deal with writing projects from around eight writing clients each month, and I’m often doing multiple projects for each one. That means I have weekly, monthly, and bimonthly deadlines that I need to meet. Some of the projects are long-term and others are rush jobs. Plus, this doesn’t include my own writing projects.
I usually work on each project for a little bit each day. I might do interviews for one article, the rough draft for another, transcribing notes for a third, a partial draft on another, and a final draft on a fifth project.
It keeps me busy, and all of the projects move forward. It works for me because I don’t feel overwhelmed by how much writing I have to do on a project. I can see forward movement on the project so I don’t feel anxiety as the deadline approaches.
I also like that I can usually see potential problems coming far in advance of the deadline. Maybe I need to do more interviews or research. Maybe I need to completely rewrite an article. By doing a little bit each day, I can see the problem coming rather than having to scramble when I’m doing a lot of writing only a few days out from my deadline.
However, just like the juggler couldn’t maintain seven balls in the air for a long period, juggling multiple projects can wear me down after a while. When I start to feel that way, I also have to back off. This usually seems to be a time when I have an unusually high number of projects that I’m trying to keep moving.
I do this by focusing on one or two projects each day and trying to finish them or at least make major progress toward finishing them. These are usually projects that have looming deadlines or a project that doesn’t require a lot of research and preparation. Finishing a project is like removing a ball from the juggler’s moving circle.
Some of the advantages that I’ve found with this method as I talk with other writers are:
- I don’t get bored because I’m working on different things.
- I can avoid writer’s block. If I get blocked on a project, I just jump to a new project.
- The projects get daily attention so I don’t go cold on a particular project.
This is something that works for me. Maybe it will help you get more out of your day if you try it. Good luck.
Here are some other posts that you might like:
I’m a full-time freelance writer. That means that I have two or three articles due each week and I work with a variety of editors who don’t really care that I have other deadlines. They are only concerned that I meet their deadlines.
Trying to do this week after week can be daunting if you don’t develop coping mechanisms and prepare yourself.
Here are some tips that I use to meet my deadlines without losing my mind.
Break down each project to smaller pieces. For instance, when I’m writing an article, there’s research, interviewing, writing and final preparation that needs to be done. I use daily “to do” lists, so I can list a small piece of each article on the list and accomplish something for each project daily. It keeps each project moving forward.
- Set mini-deadlines. Using the smaller pieces for each article, I set dates to have each piece completed by so that I can complete the entire project with time to spare before the entire project is due.
- Build in extra time. When setting those mini-deadlines, I plan it out so that I am finished the project a few days before the entire project. This buffer time allows me time to fine tune a project or deal with any unexpected delays such as not being able to get a hold of someone I need to interview.
- Don’t take on too much. As Dirty Harry used to say, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Know what you have due around the same time each new projects you might take on would be due. Know how productive you are and what your general schedule is. There’s only so much you can do no matter how prepared you are so make sure you know how much you can handle before you take on a project.
- Go with the flow. While having little deadlines is nice organizational tool, if you find yourself in the zone with a project, don’t worry about the deadline. Just keep writing. You can adjust your deadlines later.
Juggling multiple deadlines can be tiring, but it can be done. The more deadlines you have, though, the more organized you will need to be.
My computer decided to take a vacation today. I’m not sure how long it will be away, but boy, do I miss it. Where it went I can’t say, but seeing as how it has internet access, it could be anywhere. I’m sure it is having more fun than I am today.
Why do I saw that? Because I pretty much make my living using a computer, so I’ve been left scrambling trying to find work I can do that either requires limited computer access, no access of my files or no computer use at all.
You might say that that I should have backed up my data for just such an emergency. I do. Once a month I back everything up to an external hard drive. However, I do it at the beginning of the month and it’s now the end of the month. So if I’m forced to use my backed up data, I lose everything from this month, including the stories I have that are due to editors tomorrow and Monday. Plus, I can’t even access my research and interviews to rebuild them.
Can you say stress!
As has been observed by many people, computers are great when they work, but there are times when they send my blood pressure through the roof.
If there is a silver lining, it’s that I’m doing some of the tasks I’ve put off for awhile in an effort to fill my work day. I would have preferred doing this when I didn’t have deadlines hanging over my head, but at least they’ll be done.
Maybe one of the things I’ll do today is go shopping for a new computer.