plate_spinningEvery week, I’m figuring out how to spread my time across multiple work, home, and personal tasks. Limited time, and seemingly limitless things to do.  Work, volunteering, cooking, laundry, and cleaning. Keeping up with my kids, husband, and friends. Managing my career, reading, knitting that sweater, and – oh yes – relaxing. My favorite tool for this puzzle is the list.

I keep lots of lists:  the grocery, the week’s menu, books I want to read, places to visit, movies to watch, home projects. I don’t trust my memory, so I’m always jotting something down. Pockets, purses, and backpacks are brimming with lists scribbled onto envelopes or full-sized sheets.

If the list gets long, or the tasks too complex, I sometimes augment with a schedule. Serious business. Planning out half-hour increments of the day so that I get to everything, or do things in the best order. This is reserved for projects of high importance and a short timeline – a Derby party, moving, a 200 page book due tomorrow. I’m reminded of a scene from the Ed Sullivan Show, the entertainer in constant motion spinning plates on long poles, each requiring some attention.

One Saturday morning, instead of asking what we were going to do that day, my 10-year old son asked me “what’s on your list today?” I’d like to think that my response was to put the list down and be completely spontaneous. At the very least I hope we added something fun to the list.

I went to graduate school at night while working full time, but the luxury of taking a single class during the semester was my favorite part. I could focus on one subject. This never happened in college, and hasn’t seemed to happen since. Juggling is the norm, the overarching life skill that is built into everything we do in school, and for long after.

My lists bring order to the swirl of things, and provide a gauge to measure progress. It’s satisfying to checks things off, and feel accomplished. For a moment, and then I have this odd feeling of not knowing what to do next. Fortunately, new lists always spring up.  So, now I can check off “write blog post” – ahh!




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