True Confessions of a Juggler: Time Management Tips for Every Writer

by Marcie Flinchum Atkins
published in Writing

Jugglers make juggling look effortless. They wow onlookers with their agility, showmanship, and daring. Time management is a lot like juggling, especially when you’re a writer!

Every morning that I wake up before daylight to write, I wonder if I can keep all of the “balls” in the air. How many can I juggle before I drop everything? I know I’m not the only one juggling a full-time job, a family with young children, and a burning desire to write. But as I spend more and more of my life juggling multiple responsibilities, I have a few confessions to make.

Juggling Can Be Fun

Boredom is stifled when juggling is rampant. Not only do I juggle multiple family and career responsibilities, I’m also crazy enough to juggle multiple writing projects at a time. This ensures one thing: I’m never bored. I don’t spend much time staring at a blank computer screen because I have plenty to keep me busy. Whether I’m researching for a nonfiction piece, drafting a novel, revising a poem, or planning my next blog posts, I am the farthest thing from bored. Multiple projects keeps me moving forward.

Juggling More Doesn’t Always Pay Off

The more items you add to juggle, the more nail-biting it becomes. At some point, if you add too many things, you will drop them all. For me personally, I know that I have sleep requirements. If I don’t sleep enough, I can’t keep everything going. So compromising sleep isn’t an option for me. I’d rather go to bed at 9:00 pm, so I can wake up refreshed at 5:00 am.

You will need to find your own limits. My juggling limitations aren’t the same as someone else’s. Maybe you can get by on six hours of sleep, but you can only juggle one writing project at a time. That’s okay. You have to learn your own limits. Unfortunately, you learn your limits by pushing them. Add one more ball and you drop everything. You pick fewer back up, focus on the things you are most passionate about, and try again. It’s better to juggle your perfect number well than to add too many balls and do none of them well.

It’s Not for Show

Juggling is fun to watch. People are astonished by jugglers who can juggle more and dare to juggle dangerously. But in real life, juggling your life’s responsibilities is not a show. Don’t add more to your plate just for applause. It’s not worth it. Writers often spend years juggling without an audience. No one seems to notice. You need to be in this writing gig because you can’t figure out how NOT to write.

Juggling multiple projects is often necessary and it can be fun, if it’s balanced. But if you are juggling a writing career, a full-time job, plus other responsibilities, don’t do it to satisfy anyone else but yourself. Don’t compare your juggling with anyone else’s. You need to juggle what works for you.

Jugglers make it look easy. But behind a successful demonstration is a lot of hard work—a lot of failed attempts along the way. When you look at other writers who are your role models, remember: they might make it look easy, but they’ve spent a lot of time to get there. We don’t always see the failed attempts. We usually see the masterful juggling.

Are You Juggling the Right Things?

In Seth Godin’s book, Poke the Box, he argues, “Juggling is about throwing not catching.” We have to be willing to try new things. Sometimes we worry so much about catching and keeping it all together, that we neglect to keep it fresh. Throw in new things, and get rid of things that aren’t working.

Are you willing to drop something you are juggling and are less passionate about to throw in what you really love?


marcie 15 for web smallMarcie Flinchum Atkins is a crazed juggler of full-time teaching, raising two young kids, and writing for children and young adults. She received her MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University. She blogs at

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