How to Juggle Multiple Deadlines

Photo credit: The Lowry, Salford on Flickr
Writing deadlines are hard, and writing deadlines when you have more than one, and when writing deadlines aren't the only deadlines you have, and when writing isn't the only thing you do, is even harder.

I've been thinking a lot about that as I juggle my writing with my responsibilities, new and old.

Writing-wise, I currently have three projects I'm tossing around, two with deadlines (one self-imposed, one not), and a third that really wants my attention but has to sit and wait. On top of that are my freelance editing projects, my social media commitments, my part-time job, and grad school. And even before I've started doing all of those things at once—though I will have started by the time this publishes—I've already been thinking a lot about how to prioritize to make sure things get done.

For me, it starts with recognizing hard deadlines vs soft deadlines. Hard deadlines are deadlines I can't move—deadlines in contracts (both writing and freelance) or homework, for example. Hard deadlines I usually get plenty of advance notice on, so when I initially get them I sit down and do some math to figure out how much work I have to do every day in order to finish on time. And then I build in a few extra days, for days when things don't go as planned.

Conversely, soft deadlines are usually self-imposed deadlines. They're goalposts, rather than something someone else is waiting on—or, they're sometimes a hard deadline date with the wiggle room built in. So, if I've committed to finishing a project on the 31st, I'll usually math out so I finish on the 29th, so the 29th is my soft deadline that can be moved if needed, and the 31st is my hard deadline.

Once I've established all I need to do every day for each of my commitments, I prioritize within the day. My to-do list nowadays typically looks like this:
  • errands
  • writing/revision work
  • freelance work
  • grad school reading/work
  • social media work
Within my grad school reading, I like it split it up between boring reading and fun reading. The boring reading I try to get out of the way first, and then the fun reading I know I can spread out throughout the day, even up until my bedtime reading. Social media work often gets priority unless I can push it off a day without consequence—but I try not to do that too much because I usually have plenty to do the next day too. Freelance work and writing work I generally prioritize the most, because the later in the day it gets, the less energy I have to do it—but those two categories frequently have the most hard deadlines, so I have to get them done. Then errands of course get prioritized and scheduled by how urgent they are.

By splitting up my tasks into bite-sized pieces and prioritizing them from most important to least, it allows me to get high-priority items done even when I have a lot going on while leaving some flexibility for overflow tasks that I can get done on a catch up day. 

It's not a perfect system, but it definitely helps. And it's very necessary, for me at least, to keep track of all I need to do. 

Do you prioritize your daily tasks? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
How do you juggle multiple responsibilities with writing? @Ava_Jae shares a few tips. (Click to tweet

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