Raise your hand if you know that you could get a lot done if only your kids weren’t interrupting you every three seconds. I see those hands. I’ve got both of mine up right now. Picture me waving a white flag, saying “I give up. I surrender. I’ll never get this article written!” Every mom, house, job, family and situation is different so prepare yourself to ignore whatever doesn’t apply to you, but here are a few things I’ve learned about how to actually get work done when the whole world is saying “no way are you getting anything done today.”
Multitasking Is Only Partially Impossible
“Multitasker” used to show up on people’s resumes but now experts say no one can really multitask so it has fallen from glory. But moms know different. I constantly multitask. I can talk on the phone, change a diaper, cook spaghetti and wipe spit-up all at the same time. It gets trickier with business work though, because then I have to concentrate or be creative or actually speak clearly and coherently in non-two-year-old sentences. The trick here is scheduling. You really must figure out which parts of your job require fairly intense concentration and slot those tasks for nap time, after kids go to bed time and other kid-free times.
That’s a two part task. First take an honest look at your work responsibilities and intentionally carve out things that are repetitive and rote from things that require deeper focus. Second, take a realistic look at your day and find times where there really is potential for quiet. In some homes that just isn’t possible and for me it has been important to rethink interruptions.
When Is An Interruption Not An Interruption?
It isn’t the nature of the interruption that defines it. It makes no difference whether it is a crisis, a question, a fight or a foul smell. And, it isn’t the nature of the task you are doing either. You might be doing something incredibly simple or fantastically complicated and still “feel” interrupted. Yep, you guessed it. An interruption is only an interruption if you see it that way. Yes, I know this probably sounds crazy, but every interruption can be an opportunity. A question is an opportunity to teach. A crisis is an opportunity to comfort and love. Disobedience is an opportunity to build discipline. Rambunctiousness is an opportunity to sit back and appreciate the gift of children and the joy of unrestrained childhood. What are your most frequent interruptions and what is the opportunity that makes those moments important events instead of crippling frustrations?
How Does Rethinking Interruptions Help Me Get Work Done?
So maybe you admit that changing your mindset about interruptions is a good thing (although you don’t necessarily concede that it is possible). But there is still work to be done! There is money that needs to be made and customers that need to be served and bosses that need to be answered! I would love to talk at length about balancing the lofty commitment of being a mom with other responsibilities like financial ones. But let’s assume that the amount of work you’ve taken on is actually possible for a normal human being. You’ll recover from interruptions much faster if they aren’t interruptions. Recovering quickly means more time to concentrate. If you are enjoying the opportunities rather than lashing out against them, you won’t drain emotional energy rehearsing and regretting.
Be Noise Tolerant
Ok, so I can’t really do this myself. I actually have to cover up the screams, squeals and banter with music and headphones. But some moms seem to be able to consume the racket like it is a white noise machine.
Put Yourself In Timeout
I’m sorry kids but I’m in timeout and I can’t talk to you for 20 minutes.
Realize That Lack of Productivity Isn’t Just About the Kids
I’m a productive person. Except when I’m stressed, when I have way too much to do, when I get sick, when I haven’t slept well, when I’ve gotten angry, when I’m depressed, when I’m stuck, and the list goes on. It is easy to forget that my lack of progress has more to do with how well I’m taking care of myself than anything the little ones are or are not doing.
One “Work” Thing at a Time
Sometimes I can’t find a good excuse for not accomplishing anything. I have a 30 minute (or even 60 minute) stretch of quiet time with no interruptions, er’ opportunities, and I still don’t get a single, solitary important thing finished. A lot of times I’m so flustered with everything I haven’t been able to do that I can’t still my mind and focus on completing just one step, one task.
This is where planning comes in. I’ve discovered the fewer the things on my to-do list, the more I can get done. My daily list of “projects” is much shorter now. Rather than writing down all the things I need to do, which wouldn’t even fit in a notebook, I now right down the one thing that I think is most important for me to do. Then when I get it done, I’ve actually done something important. Imagine that! Really, this sounds like, no duh, but it is true. When that magic quiet time magically appears, you can’t afford to waste it. You need to know what that really important thing is to do, and spend those precious minutes doing only that.
Hope this article is more of an opportunity than an interruption.
Thanks to Becky from ExperiencedMommy.com for writing this helpful post for us WAHMs. She is a blessed mother of two boys and two girls, changing diapers and homeschooling for 20 years
and counting. Becky love’s to research (I’m a CPA). And I really love to help other moms make wise and thoughtful decisions for their families.