SPOILER ALERT: You cannot juggle everything at once. You just can’t. You can become an expert juggler – one who can keep an astounding number of things in the air simultaneously and you might even learn to feel content and look graceful while doing it. Maybe you won’t even have to learn those things – maybe you’re a natural – but no matter who you are, no matter where you are in life: if you pick up everything in your life and try to juggle it all at once, things will fall. But you can effectively juggle lots at once.
As I’m tackling multiple concurrent home renovations, I’m also trying to do other things with my life aside from being a house-fixer-upper person.
I’m a parent, for one. It doesn’t feel quite fair to even describe parenting as “time-consuming,” which it is, of course, but it requires all of your time inherently. Even if your kid is in school and you’re trusting teachers to be at the helm for a certain number of hours each day, you’re still on call. And more than being on call, you’re still orchestrating plenty else related to parenting – while working and doing your thing – despite the physical absence of the child. You’re making dentist appointments and brainstorming summer trips and researching the pros and cons of whatever parenting dilemma you’re currently facing. When you’re in it with a child present, it’s everything from education to play to cooking nutritious meals (and possibly your fair share of french fries, if you’re like us). The time-consumption of parenting isn’t a switch you can turn off, and yet, it’s steadfastly very much so in the juggle.
But aside from parenting and fixing up this house, there’s so much more for me. I work as a writer and a content creator, so I’m constantly hustling to line up work. Some of that work requires intensive research or formatting. Some of it requires shooting and editing photos. It’s usually fun and rewarding – even on my least favorite projects – but it takes time. I also have a Poshmark shop on the side and that requires some real hands-on time, from procuring the things I sell and getting them into selling-shape to packaging up each item sold and getting it into the mail. Then there’s the work I do that doesn’t pay me in such a direct way. There’s this blog and the work I do on my Instagram. There’s the thing I love most – music – and all of my hopes and dreams to be doing that increasingly more, even if it means just posting some videos online of me playing. Something. Anything. (I did recently post a little video of me playing on the Collapsi Instagram and I’ll be doing that more moving forward.)
All of that stuff aside, developing a community has always been important to me everywhere I’ve lived (it’s something we all need, it really is), but it’s perhaps even more vital to me here – here in this place I moved to in order to finally stay. Building a community is priceless and non-negotiable for me, but make no mistake: it’s an investment.
Beyond all of that, we are people who are living in a place that we’re relatively new to and it’s nice to get out and explore. We are humans who have human things to take care of, like exercise and checkups.
Navigating regular life for anyone is a lot. It seems like it piles on more as you get older. Navigating life for people who are particularly ambitious is that much more chaotic and challenging. I repeat: it’s not actually possible to juggle it all without some things falling to the ground. That is something you need to know if you attempt to commit to an ambitious life. But here are some things that have helped me get through busy times and are helping me at the moment:
- Instead of trying to juggle it all at once, separate your to-dos into piles and juggle them separately. We all move through phases in life and no matter how much you love any one thing, you might not be able to always keep it in the mix. Know that it’s ok to bench a thing for a while. Theoretically, we should have been fixing up this house every day since we’ve been in it since it’s needed fixing up every day that we’ve been in it, but that’s just not how it works. In fact, we’ve gone many weeks without even doing a single thing to improve the house at times when too much else is in the mix. I can’t be two places at once and neither can you. I’m not painting walls when I’m working on my songs. It’s not possible. Don’t expect something so comedically impossible to suddenly become a thing that can happen. It can’t happen. You have to pick. Sometimes we call this prioritizing and that’s an ok phrase to use – always do the most important things first. But I tend to think there’s a bit more nuance to it than that, which leads me to:
- Feed off of your passion. I’m a firm believer in allowing your creative energy to flow where it goes naturally rather than attempting to redirect it. Tune in and let go enough and you might find the experience to even be a little spiritual. For me, these passions operate at multiple levels. I go through chunks of months at a time where I feel pulled to do one kind of thing more than another, but within those months are days and weeks where I feel specific pulls and they can change down to the hour within my days. I can’t always drop everything to just whimsically redirect, but I can try. I have a zillion other things to do at this very moment, but I felt like writing, so here I am. Living this way can be spinning and there are ways to feed off of your passion while still remaining a bit regimented, but the passion part is everything. We all have to do things we aren’t passionate about and plenty of tasks require no passion (note to self: schedule Ever into some new classes later this morning and call in that prescription). But when we’re talking about the kinds of tasks that are better with a little bit of focus and sincere love in the mix – try to trust your instincts and do what you feel most equipped to do in the moment, knowing fully that the readiness will shift, the passions will probably prove to be fleeting, and soon something else requiring your presence will be up to bat.
- Organize a little bit. Look, at this point in life, you probably are who you are. We can all change and I 100% advocate for and believe in the power of self-improvement, but there’s also a great power in identifying some of your core traits and working with them rather than trying to change them. For example: I know I work better with handwritten lists than digital spreadsheets. I don’t need to try to make that fact about me different because it works for me. So I write a list every day when I sit down to think about what I want out of my day. My parents were both list-makers growing up and I’ve inherited the tick and it’s downright comforting for me. But the key here is to tap into what helps you to focus and organize the best way for you. There is no one right way. Figure out what works for you (look into your past to assess what you were doing when things felt most successful or make a pointed effort to try new things, including apps) and bring it into your daily life. You need something that feels like ritual, not a chore.
- Take small breaks. When you’re in the midst of juggling more things than may even be advisable, it’s important to take small breaks. Not only will sitting for too long lead to early death (SERIOUSLY), but your brain needs a chance to clear its cache and steady itself for a new endeavor, too. So when you’re about to switch from money-making work to domestic affairs, for instance, get up. Go for a short walk or just do some stretches. Extra points if you can at least get some fresh air by stepping outside. Have a glass of water. Look at the birds. Think of some things that bring you joy and gratitude. And then start the next thing a little fresher.
- Take big breaks. Some projects require more of a break than a few yoga postures can offer. Sometimes you need to set something aside and sit on it for weeks or even months. Maybe years. Here’s something to remember for those kinds of breaks: you aren’t failing. Most big projects require insight and taste – both of which tend to get better with time. You might think you’re ignoring something massive on your plate, but if you look hard at it all, you might find that you’re actually accruing enriching resources that will make whatever it is better in the end by simply living and letting it have air.
- Know when to delegate. I don’t mean this in the “know when to hire people” sense, but of course if you have the means, then YES, do that. But I don’t have the resources to hire a team of people to help me with my tasks, so I always find it annoying with wealthy “gurus” insist to their readers that if they just *invest* in hiring a maid, a chef, a personal trainer, a VA, a nanny, a dog-walker, a WHATEVER, that they’ll see the results of their investment instantaneously. Not everyone has the money to invest in the first place, you idiots! So when I say “know when to delegate,” I mean this in a frugality-conscious way. Is there someone on your team at work who can handle some of what’s on your plate? Do you have a partner at home who can pick up more of the slack with cleaning, cooking, childcare, shopping, home maintenance, scheduling, or anything else? Can you start teaching your child to do a chore (or a few) that you’ve been handling on your own? If there’s help available for you, take it. If no one around you has offered help, don’t be too shy to ask. You’ll likely be able to return the favor by reciprocating help in a way that you’re able to do with ease. Know your strengths and seek out help for your weaknesses. “It takes a village” and we’re living in a world of increasing digital connectedness but decreasing physical connectedness. Fight that with every fiber of your being because it is bad. Introduce yourself to your neighbors. Get on NextDoor. Join a local moms group. Resist the destruction of the village.
- Brainstorm ways to work smartly. A car gets to the same place in the same amount of time whether it’s carrying one person or four. This is why carpooling is efficient. With this in mind, what can you make more efficient in your life? How can you work more smartly? Can you find time to meal prep for a few days of food in advance? Are there ready-to-eat options that can work for your budget and diet? If either of these questions gets a “yes,” then you can cut down on the time it takes to cook full meals at home. Do you have dogs that need to be walked? Let this be your exercise if so. I recently stopped going to the gym. It wasn’t my choice, really – they closed – and I’d still be going if that exact gym four minutes from my house were still open, but since it’s not, I’ve adapted. The other gyms I liked that also offered childcare services were farther away and/or more than double the monthly price. I decided to start coupling activities instead. Now my dogs get longer, more regular, and more intensive walks from me and I have some extra time (and money) to show for it. I also am weaving yoga postures into my small breaks each day – did you know you can benefit from five minutes of yoga here and there?! It doesn’t have to be a thing you set 45 minutes aside for. I like to do special mommy/daughter dates with Ever, but, as it turns out, she loves going to Trader Joe’s with me (mostly because they hide a stuffy and she gets a lollipop when she finds it and I also let her have a cup of soy milk when I have my little cup of coffee there). We still do actually special dates, but it totally works for me that she thinks this thing I have to do weekly anyway is really fun. I also try to separate my to-do list into things I can do with the child around and things I’d rather not do (or just CAN’T) with the child around. This way I can use the time she’s in daycare smartly and find ways to teach her and bond with her while accomplishing some of the other activities, like photo shoots. What can you do to couple activities, work more smartly, and be more efficient in your process?
- Be prepared to handle things falling. As I’ve said throughout this post, juggling too much at once will lead to things falling. What will you do when things fall? See the fact that things will fall from a mile away. Be ready for it. As soon as you notice something has fallen, you can do one of two things: pick it up and put it back in the mix or set it aside. If you can bring that thing back into the mix by coupling it with something else, you’ll add more ease to your days. Perhaps you’ve fallen behind on building your friendships, but maybe you can start inviting friends over to help you with home projects or take walks with you or even to grocery shop with you. If you can’t couple what’s dropped, then take a hard look at why it’s in the mix right now. If it’s important to right now, then make room for it, one way or another. If it can wait, let it wait. If it can be scaled back, scale it back. Most important is this: be prepared to notice what’s falling as soon as it does so that you can minimize damage control and regret. Tempting as it may be (trust me, I know), avoiding what you’ve let slide doesn’t ever yield positive results.
- Let yourself rest. People who don’t stop to relax pay for it eventually. Not only do our brains and muscles need to reset, but our souls – whatever you think that means – they need to rest, too. We don’t live to work, we work to live. Even if you love what it is you do for work – and lucky you! – living is something else entirely. You might extract deep and meaningful life-stuff from your work, but you still need to carve out time to just be. Time to mediate, time to sit. Time to think, time to laugh. Time to eat, time to daydream. Time to explore, time to laze around. You must make time for relaxation the same way you make time for bathing, exercising, sleeping, and eating well. Don’t be gullible enough to believe that your relaxation time is a waste. Rather, you’ll waste away if you don’t ever relax.
I salute you and your ambition. You deserve to acknowledge your dreams. You can and will work toward achieving them and live a good life all the while. Hiccups will happen. Obstacles will block your path at times. But if you are committed to, you will find a way. I hope these tips can help you do that, even if just a little bit. But remember: you are not who you will become. You are already here. You’ve already done so much. The stuff you’re trying to do, the places you want to reach? Those are new goals you’ve chosen with the luxury of having gotten to where you already are. Who you are is not what you achieve; you will achieve what you achieve because of who you are.
With that, I’ll leave you with some links to some things I like. These are affiliate links, which means I get a small payment if you actually buy the thing. They do not alter the actual price of the thing (in some cases, they lower it, though!), they just mean I get a little kickback for referring you. It’s like you’re buying me a cup of coffee! Another way you can shoot me some monetary support, if you’re feeling inclined, is to download my song “Burn Like A Mother.” You might think a $1 doesn’t make a dent, but it does! And the gesture itself is meaningful to me. (You also can choose to download it for more than a dollar.) I’m currently working out the kinks in how to record many more songs, so any kind of support means a lot. Thank you!
I got one of these LOVE GOODLY boxes last year and let me tell you: it was amazing. I’m actually still using a couple of things from it. These boxes are committed to bringing you lovely products that are cruelty-free, kind to the planet, and not at all like traditional carcinogen-laden garbage. The things within the box always total far over the box’s cost, so it’s absolutely worth it.