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5 ways to stay sane while managing multiple projects

Majella McAllister shares her secrets for effective multitasking.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT software, co-working spaces, enterprise boards, 5G… with the easy access we now have to knowledge and user-friendly technology, it’s no wonder more and more people are choosing to take on extra work, follow passion projects or start their own businesses on the side.

These days, it’s not only entirely feasible to juggle multiple projects – it’s almost expected. Whether that’s a good thing or not is another question. One thing’s certain though: if you’re going to have multiple projects on the go, it’s important to avoid burnout.

It’s a particularly busy time of year for Majella McAllister. As a teacher of Honours Leaving Cert English, her students have exams looming.

Oh… and she’s setting up a museum.

“My passion project is working to establish a whole island of Ireland Museum of Childhood,” Majella told TheJournal.ie. “This is a really important first for Ireland and long overdue.”

Fundamental to the establishment of the museum is Majella’s fundraising shop in Dún Laoghaire, Piggybank, which is a not-for-profit second hand store that funnels money into the museum fund.

“Piggybank keeps me rather busy,” says Majella, “but it’s completely essential as it has funded the whole project to date. It also provides free space for clubs for teenagers each evening. It’s a real community hub.”

As someone with so many balls in the air, we asked Majella for her tips for maintaining a good work-life balance in the midst of it all.

1. Planning is essential

As a Luddite, I’m afraid paper and pen are my preferred organisational tools (I colour code!). Whatever your chosen method, though, planning is essential when you are multitasking.

Separate from the work of our strategy team, I set aside an hour every month to look at what I need to achieved in relation to the museum. Then I draw up a task list based on that. I need and love lists!

2. Focus on the necessary

Our focus at the museum now is on finalising Government funding, looking at private funding partners, and on securing a building to house the museum.

I don’t always get everything on my ‘to do’ list done, but that’s okay. Because of time pressure I tend to work in short focused bursts, and find much can be achieved in a five minute break. Unfortunately I rarely get to sit at a desk, so my iPhone is essential and I use it to update Facebook, email, text, etc. on the train to work in the mornings and evenings.

3. Learn to avoid people who need too much of your time

You need to surround yourself with strong and independent people or you cannot delegate effectively. Avoiding people who can’t work on their own initiative is important.

In a voluntary organisation, we really rely on everyone to play their part and if someone doesn’t follow through on a given task it can really set the project back. It can be tricky, as of course everyone has a life outside the project, but honestly there is nothing worse than having someone involved in your project do nothing while everyone else has to take on extra tasks to cover for them.

I have learned to make time for family and friends by finally having a strong team and board, that work effectively. It means I can delegate, and the project still keeps moving forward.

4. Go outside

For relaxation I turn to my husband and family. I love them, and any time I get to spend with them is a real joy. Both of my sons are just finishing up in university this year.

Living in Dún Laoghaire is wonderful: a walk on the pier, summer or winter, is a natural stress buster. Last summer I walked the Camino with my husband – I loved it. Talk about completely switching off!

5. Reward yourself for facing your fears

I really hated public speaking, but I’ve had to get used to it. Because I pushed myself to face it, I don’t find it stressful anymore. Whenever I have to speak publicly, I find that going to the hairdressers and having a wash and blow dry really helps.

More: 7 ways to get better at networking, according to an expert>

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