Sunday, April 21, 2013

Juggling Multiple Projects

Are you the type of person who likes to start one thing, finish it, and move on to the next? If so, I truly admire you! If not, I feel your drive (and sometimes pain) to be in the middle of many multiple projects all at once. People with this quality have to watch out for two major detailers - not finishing anything and losing track of things.

Before I got pregnant, I rarely kept a solid calendar and made lists only when I was feeling overwhelmed. Call it mommy-brain or call it exceeding my capacity to remember things (or call it way too much Diet Coke) but now if something exceeds three things I have to make a list. Considering that I am usually juggling multiple types of projects at work, multiple volunteer commitments, multiple home-based businesses, a pile of bills that always seem to add up to more than my income, and raising a 17-month old son this new "rule of three" means everything goes on a list.

1. Consolidated Source for Lists
My favorite way to do this is through Evernote (no consideration was paid for this), but I know there are other apps out there that accomplish the same thing. The idea is that I can make lists on my phone or home computer and they are loaded into the cloud and accessible as updated items anywhere. I keep shopping lists, blog ideas, work notes, goals, recipes, and brainstorming ideas in different notebooks for each facet/project in my life. I have it loaded on my iPhone and MacBook Pro (again, no consideration paid) and I use it more times a day than I can count.

2. One Calendar
I also keep everything on one calendar and use the Franklin Covey practice of scheduling planning time each week and each day. This helps me prioritize my "to do" lists on a regular basis and pick the 2-3 things that I must accomplish each day off the big rolling list in my To Do Notebook. I know some specialists will recommend that you create a separate calendar for part-time home based business. The rationale behind this is that your "other" calendar will fill up first and you won't have any time left for the business. The best advice I ever received about home-based businesses is that "you can do them full-time or part-time but you can't do them in your free time." So go ahead and keep everything on one calendar (to avoid double booking) but use your planning time to carve out specific time for every project - including home based businesses, blogs, and friends/family time.

3. Don't Let One Thing Rule Your Life
I have also learned not to take my day job home. This one was really hard for me because I actually really enjoy my job. But it was taking over every waking minute of my life. When it failed to pay the bills on a regular basis and I had to pick up extra jobs I had to say when I left the work it was time to work on family and friends until my son went to sleep and then volunteer and extra jobs. With the knowledge that I have to take 7 furlough days (leave without pay) this summer, those days will get the same treatment as my weekends - no primary job. It was a tough decision and is a constant battle, but it has freed up time for me to pursue my true passions. It is not a decision I regret.

4. Celebrate Completion
Frequent starters but seldom finishers need to set goals and celebrate achieving them. For fun things like that cross-stitch or quilt, a hard deadline is not as important as goals for "time on task." In other words, don't worry about finishing it by Christmas, decide that you will spend two hours working on it each week. (This works for work projects, too as long as you backtrack from and respect the hard deadline.)

What are your tips for juggling multiple projects? What do you like best about that mode of work? What do you like least?