Keeping All the Balls in the Air

This post is by Joe Stephens

I didn’t have time to write this. I’m just too busy. I’m behind on grading papers, I need to make up a test, there’s a book for notebook, paper, pencil, sharpener, business, creative, office, deskme to review sitting next to me shouting for attention, I haven’t written a book review for the online magazine that was expecting it in AUGUST, I should be doing more to publicize my soon-to-be-launched new book, and I haven’t written a word on the next book in over a week.

Wow. I nearly hyperventilated just reading that last paragraph. At times like this, I wonder how I’ll ever get it all done. And yet, as I look back at the many times I’ve found myself in this position, I realize that I did, indeed, get caught up each time. Yes, sometimes deadlines got pushed back or projects got scaled down or even jettisoned, but everything worked out. I just have to breathe and keep reminding myself of that.

One thing that helps me maintain my sanity in these situations is reminding myself that balance doesn’t mean all things equal all the time. Sometimes certain things just need to take priority and other things, while still important, can wait. The reality is that I have a little time before my next work in progress needs to be finished. I have a book coming out October 1 and a novella coming the next month, so I don’t see publishing Shalan 4 until at least February. So taking a week off to do things that are more pressing is not the worst sin. But I have to make sure that the urgent doesn’t replace the important. And I also need to remember that just because something seems urgent doesn’t mean it’s actually important. If it doesn’t involve a commitment I’ve already made to someone else and it’s not part of the small group of projects I consider priorities in my life, maybe I can just say no.

Another thing I need to remind myself is that I am surrounded by people who are kind and forgiving. Yesterday I came clean to my students and just told them that I’m struggling to keep up with grading their papers but that I was working at it and would be finished just as soon as humanly possible. They were more than kind. I could see by the looks on their faces that, not only did they understand but they related. My seniors, many of whom have jobs, play sports, and are in multiple other AP courses, no doubt feel what I’m feeling right now. That just-on-the-edge-of-panic feeling of wondering which will come first between getting finished and just simply breaking down and curling up in a ball under a blanket somewhere. silhouette, family, island, canada, lake, sunset, people, men, woman, dusk, travel, horizon, evening, reflection, vacation, group, friends, water

Hey, look at that–I finished this post. And with enough spare time to finish a cold cup of coffee before I jump in the shower and rush to school. Maybe I will make it.

Joe Stephens is a teacher at Parkersburg High School. He is also the author of Harsh Prey and Kisses and Lies, both of which are available in paperback and Kindle formats. The paperback may be purchased from
Amazon, from J & M Used Book Store in Parkersburg, and from the author’s trunk.

kindle cover

Take a look at Harsh Prey on Amazon 

Kisses and Lies Cover Michele croppedTake a look at Kisses and Lies on Amazon

Join Joe on Facebook 

Check out joe’s website.

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15 Responses to Keeping All the Balls in the Air

  1. I can also relate. Before I got married, and my husband convinced me to quit my day job and write full time, I couldn’t always find enough hours in a day to write, and like you, I had to skip certain projects I hoped to do by a specific deadline. Now, I’m not as pressed, especially since I no longer have to care for my late husband, but there are still times when I scramble. Good luck with everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Doris says:

    Joe, those ‘shoulds’ can get in the way of what is important. You illustrated the point very well. Life is busy, we make choices based on where we want to be in life and sometimes things need to be placed on a back bunner or jettisoned althogether. Here’s to that balance. You seem to be dong very well. I know I related to your words. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wranglers says:

    You sound like most of us. My interuptions are good ones. We now have 3 Great Grandchildren. I am working on a book, or two or three, and I have a 6 month subscription to a Genealogy site. I’m 2 months into it. Cher’ley

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your post really hit home with me, Joe. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with my multiple jobs, writing, and life in general, I just want to check out and ignore everything for a while. What helps me is to write down all my projects, tasks, and work-related stuff. Just seeing it all written down on a piece of paper calms me down since now I feel like I’ve managed to control it somewhat. Plus I love crossing stuff out when I finally finish it. It sounds like you’ve got a good handle on your workload and it does help sometimes to just be honest and give people a heads-up. It’s surprising how understanding people can be. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joe Stephens says:

      As much as we probably all love our many hats, it definitely is nice to get away and let all the projects go for a while–as long as we’re capable of actually forgetting them and leaving them behind.

      I’m the same way with feeling satisfaction in knowing that I’ve shortened my to-do list by one task.

      Like

  5. Avery Tingle says:

    It really is all about triaging and breathing. Breathing is the most important part. Cause, you know, nothing happens without breathing. Sounds like you have a good grasp on prioritising and getting your stuff done. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  6. Neva Bodin says:

    I think all busy people can relate to your post Joe. And it is a reassuring one. My personal life got crazy with a family emergency 2 weeks ago in the middle of a writing deadline and I had to juggle editing an 8 page newsletter while sitting in a hospital room and ignoring all other commitments, but as you say, urgent and important are two different issues.

    Like

    • Joe Stephens says:

      I hope all worked out well. You’re right. The key is figuring out which things actually are the important things. Sometimes I struggle with that. I guess we all probably do.

      Like

  7. Mike Staton says:

    Cold cup of coffee? Tell me you didn’t. You drank it without at least microwaving it? With K cups nowadays, if I’m too lazy to drink cold coffee, I’ll just dump what remains and brew another K cup. With time to spare to write a blog comment. Lol.

    Like

  8. wyoauthor1 says:

    GREAT POST, JOE!! Yes, yes, I do relate. I pretty much had a melt-down over the weekend as I worked so much on so many things and didn’t take a “fun” break until later on Sunday and then there was still writing involved! LOL It’s had to juggle so many things, even if we’re a person who can multi-task. I think these days people are TOO BUSY and that adds to our emotional and physical stress levels being TOO high. I’m happy to say there’s a light at the end of my very-near tunnel (and the train isn’t TOO BIG!) and I intend to not allow myself to get this overwhelmed again. Might mean a major decision (stop doing this and dropping that), but overall, the peace of mind will be SO WORTH IT! Best to you this school year and as you write your stories.

    Like

  9. Nancy Jardine says:

    My commiserations- Joe! As one supposed to be retired from the stresses of teaching that you mention above, I’m finding days when my task list seems overwhelming. Like you’ve so rightly said in your post above, there are those things to be done urgently because you’ve committed to them and the others which WILL get done soon because there’s no actual deadline involved. Settling the mind to a task and getting it off the shoulders is great when it happens! Best of luck with your completion.

    Like

  10. S J Brown says:

    Joe, You will get it all done, the question is what else will be added to your plate in the meantime. I have chosen to just tackle some things later. Later meaning after I run away for a few days to take pictures.

    Like

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