How to Juggle Multiple Projects Without Losing Your Mind
Jugglers have always fascinated me. As a kid, I would watch variety shows like That’s Incredible! or The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and stare at the screen. I was mesmerized by the bowling pins, knives, and flaming torches flying through the air with such precision.
As a teenager, I learned to juggle three tennis balls. I can still do it pretty well. It’s not that hard to keep the balls moving for a couple of minutes. But eventually you’ll make a mistake and they’ll all come crashing down.
Juggling tennis balls is one thing … but juggling creative projects is quite another. It’s a common struggle every artist faces. One of my readers recently sent this email (I’ve edited it for length and clarity):
With all these different things I want to do and hope to achieve, I sometimes get lost in keeping track of all the things, and I get a bit discouraged. In my head, I keep trying to create an inhumane time schedule for each day. And maybe it’s not unachievable, but it’s also quite strict, and I won’t be able to keep up with it over time. Do you have any advice on handling many projects at once and not getting lost?
This particular reader is a college student, but her struggle is not unique to any particular circumstance or period of life. Most creative people have a variety of interests and responsibilities, and are therefore juggling several projects at once.
I’m facing this myself. My duties at work have been growing recently, and I’m also trying to juggle several side projects. These include my blog and newsletter, freelance writing and editing, and a book project. I love them all and consider each of them important.
I wrote back to the college student and shared a few thoughts on how to juggle multiple projects without losing your mind. But I was also speaking to myself since it’s an issue I am facing. If you are juggling a variety of responsibilities and projects, you’ll find some value in these practical tips.
BONUS: At the end of the post, you can sign up to receive my free ebook, The Art of Completion, which dives into this topic even further by giving you actionable tips you can use to finish your creative projects.
Let’s dive in …
1. Focus on the right projects.
It is easy to feel lost in a sea of projects. This is why it’s helpful to step back from those and revisit your annual goals. Then determine which projects will help you best meet those goals.
It’s hard to let go of something that is “your baby.” But if you want to be effective, you have to be ruthless in cutting out projects that aren’t contributing to your goals.
2. Visualize your goals.
My good friend Eric Elder is a writer and pastor who runs The Ranch, an online ministry. He recently shared with me a great visualization tactic: for each of his annual goals, he creates an image and posts it where he can see it every day.
The book I’m currently working on is a parable called Born to Create, based on the principles I’m teaching in my “5 Cups of Creativity” series. I created a simple mockup of the book cover, printed it, and wrapped it around a real book. When I see the prototype of the end result, it inspires me to keep plugging away.
3. Build in breaks.
When you’re working against multiple deadlines, it’s hard to stop because you feel a pressure to keep going. But it’s not healthy or productive to constantly be in “work mode.” If God needed a Sabbath day to rest, so do you.
But a weekly day off is not enough. You must know your own biological clock and understand when you’re most productive. Work with your body, not against it. (Check out my friend Jim Woods’ helpful article on this topic.)
4. Kill two birds with one stone.
See if you can figure out ways to combine projects and save time. For instance, are there ways to work on writing while commuting? Or ways to work on music while waiting between classes or appointments?
Look at your projects and commitments to see what you can combine in creative ways. Many creative endeavors can be repurposed for different audiences.
5. Embrace the seasons of life.
Life is made of seasons that come and go. College students, those with small kids at home, and empty nesters are all in different seasons, with different commitments and rhythms.
My life with a 12-year-old is different than it was with a toddler. If you have too many things going on and you feel overwhelmed, it might be time to re-evaluate your commitments. It’s perfectly OK to let some things go if you are going through an especially intense season of life.
If you’re feeling stressed and overloaded, don’t be intimidated by this list. Pick one tactic and put it into action today. You can’t do everything at once, but you can do something to improve your schedule … and your peace of mind.