Sometimes running a mental health practice feels like you're the circus guy who keeps plates spinning on poles.

There's a lot to attend to, and just when everything seems to be running smoothly, a situation comes up, either at work or in your personal life, that demands your immediate attention. At the same time, you have to make sure that other priorities don't get overlooked.

This is stressful, but manageable, provided that disruptions are few and far between.

However, if you are perpetually trying to keep too many plates spinning, something will eventually break. You will run yourself ragged, putting yourself at risk for burnout and for making clinical errors.

What's a better approach?

1. Let some plates drop. As a small business owner, you'll always have more than one plate spinning. But not all require immediate attention. Do you really need to answer that text the moment it appears? Perhaps it's best to let it drop for the time being, until you finish your session notes. Multitasking adds stress, which interferes with efficiency and accuracy.

2. Delegate. Assign some plates to other people. You can outsource tasks like billing, bookkeeping and house cleaning. You can also hire someone to handle your phone calls and scheduling when you're with clients and at other times. The person need not even be on the premises.

3. Prioritize. As noted above, it's important not to get distracted by small tasks of low urgency. Even better, decide in advance about the best use of your time. Then designate blocks of time to address specific plates (priorities), and set up your environment to eliminate distractions. Also have a plan for what you will do when you feel tempted to procrastinate.

4. Schedule down time. Research shows that taking breaks increases productivity. Make time for relaxation and fun. Put it on your calendar, to give it the importance it deserves. If the plates are spinning in your mind at break times, mentally lay them down and redirect your attention to the present.

5. Get rid of some plates altogether. Things that were important a year ago or five years ago, may no longer be relevant. Review and revise your goals, and eliminate activities and commitments that no longer fit. Examine your routines; you may find that some can be discarded. Unsubscribe from newsletters, listservs, and social media feeds that are no longer useful. Clear desks and counter tops of clutter that you have been moving from one side to the other. Review your to-do list, and cross off or eliminate some tasks that you probably won't get around to anyway. Making a decision to NOT do something feels very liberating.

If you do a little of each of the above, you'll still be spinning plates, but there will be fewer of them, and they will be more manageable and less exhausting. And you'll likely feel more in control of your practice.