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Taming the Juggling Act

With so many work and family responsibilities to take care of, many moms are continually switching mental gears throughout the day. You might wake up worrying about a project at work, then take care of your toddler's OJ-soaked shirt at breakfast, feed the dog, then finish a memo for your afternoon meeting-all before you leave the house. To handle such multitasking:

• Create a buffer. After Laurie Storey-Manseau of Hopkinton, NH, drops her 3-year-old off at preschool, she returns to her home office. To switch to work mode, she views the drive back as her "commute." "I prepare mentally, and once I cross the threshold from my dining room to my office, I'm 'on the job.' This helps me focus," she says.

• Do one thing at a time. Research shows that doing two things at once is inefficient. It takes extra time to switch gears, and it reduces the brainpower available for either task. So finish your memo before you call your sitter.

• Don't rely on memory. "If I don't write it down, it won't get done," says Jodi Moore, a work-at-home mom of two in Farmington, NH. "Before I start my daily calls, I make sure my list of clients, calendar, phone log, and pad of paper are in front of me so I can take notes and look things up."

• Break up chores. Since housework is a time hog, many moms turn it into a series of smaller, mindless tasks. By creating a chore list and doing one or two things for a half hour each day, a lot less builds up.

• Steal time. In the rare instance when you're not switching gears, take full advantage. "The only time my one-year-old isn't all over me is at work," says Taryn Huggins of Rock Hill, SC. "So I bring in projects like cross-stitching, and I do them during lunch."

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