Answer: I don't. (And yes, my life looks like this sometimes.)
I get this question a lot. I don't do it all. If it looks that way, it's because I set priorities so at least I accomplish as many important tasks a week as possible. Having said that, I don't always conquer my "to do" list and that's usually OK with me.
In the 7 years I've been an Indie Business owner, simultaneously leading my company and managing my home and family, I have developed 4 strategies for doing what's important without doing it all, and being OK with it.
- Don't Panic. In my home, I teach my kids this saying: When you panic, things only get worse. When they panic or become frustrated because they can't find their favorite toy or have spilled cereal on their newly washed clothes, I ask them, "What happens when you panic?" They answer: "Things only get worse." Each time you feel a wave of panic wash over you because you won't be able to do it all today, repeat: When you panic, things only get worse. When staring at your never ending "to do" list, above all else, don't panic.
- Address Priorities Only. This is a daily and sometimes hourly task when you are managing both home and business as I am. Don't address things that are urgent as if they are important. If it's important to complete a work project today but your 18-month old has painted a wall with magic marker, take care of the child because that's important. The wall is urgent, but it's probably not important when compared to your work project and the customer who is waiting for it. Paint the wall tomorrow (or the next day) and get the important tasks done today.
- Ask For Help. A New Testament book in the Bible says "You have not because you ask not." It's so simple that there's hardly anything else to say about it. When my 3 year old whines because he can't reach the toy he wants, I look at him and say, "Don't whine, and if you need help, what can you do?" The answer of course is, "Ask for help." Works like a charm every time. He asks for help (and says "please") and I get the toy for him. Everybody's happy. Between technology, neighbors, friends and family, you can always find some help somewhere.
- Don't Set Yourself Up. If you believe the hype about "doing it all," you'll only be disappointed when you don't measure up. I'm a list maker so I start each week with a list of important tasks to accomplish that week. Underneath those items, I list things that can wait until the next week (or month). I prune the list throughout the day so that by Friday morning, I've accomplished several major important tasks and am ready to carry over the rest to the next week. I don't get everything done, but I enjoy dinner with my family and a decent night's sleep because I'm not beating myself up.
An excellent book on setting and addressing priorities is Tyranny Of The Urgent by Charles E. Hummel. It's a mere 32 pages, and if you read and apply them, it just may change your life as it did mine. You can get the book in packs of 5 for just a few dollars at this link.
Like everything else in life, a few deep breaths and the acknowledgement that you're only one person go a long way toward simplifying your life and making it more enjoyable and productive.