|Where do cakes come from Mummy?|
And it's not just about prioritizing. Recently a client has a PR crisis, the day the dog got bitten by a snake, the day of my son's school play, the day I had a hot date and just for once wanted more than seven minutes to get ready. It was all important. In the event, sorted out client on the fly, ignored the dog in a fingers-crossed kind of way, missed only a bit of the play, looked crap for hot date but picked somewhere dark and dog survived to tell the tale.
But even the none-emergencies fight for space along the time continuum:
· Get in a regular swim to stay healthy v update blog lest it looks like I’ve died altogether.
· Pick up all the apples off the lawn v source all the coverage for my client - if only less was more.
· Do my Sunday book-keeping v take child to the movies, he’s even offering to buy the popcorn.
Bereft as I am of super powers here’s my top three multi-tasking tips for us fraught and overwrought mere mortals.
1. You need a list but you need a multi-tasking list as life does not proceed in a linear fashion. Think of it as a grid not a list. And you need to be selective about what even makes it onto that week’s grid and give equal weighting to all the varying pull factors that particular week. So that by the time you cross everything off you have moved forward several of the most pressing projects in your life and so have some sense (however deluded) that you are in control of your life. To sustain the plate spinning analogy indefinitely, make sure the grid strikes a balance between the good, the bad and the accountant, make time for exercise, for a big walk with the dog, for meeting up with mates. I aim to complete 30 things off my grid each week.
2. Unlike a world leader, you can’t get by on four hours sleep as, unlike a world leader, you can’t get away with shouting at people who really don’t deserve it. If you need to work at optimum performance, all day every day and be civil - you need to sleep the sleep of a hibernating hedgehog on Tamazipam. Go to bed with your children, train them to sleep in late.
3. Unlike Hollywood, you can't have it all and the only price to pay is a slightly tousled hairdo. Know your limits. My social calendar as well as my fridge operate on a need to know basis. The first time my son and I watched The Great British Bake Off, he thought it was a Sci-Fi series. I catered an entire party over Christmas with all the food coming from the local petrol station (admittedly it had an M&S nestled in the forecourt). Friends obligingly text me what, where and when I'm set to enjoy their company, calls only get returned when I'm walking the dog, texts on the train, while holidays are agreed without even clicking on the links. My advice - avoid organising anything for anybody - you'll only cock it up or shout at people in the process.
This post is based on an artcile for Parenting Solo Magazine profiling lone parents in business.
If you enjoyed this you might also enjoy:
The Free-Range Freelancer - on trying to do holidays when you freelance
Freelance Glorius Freelance - on surviving the feast and the famine
What Price Freedom? - how to price up work as a freelance consultant