I’m cooking breakfast.
A kid spills a glass of milk and makes a huge mess.
I sit down to work on a writing project for a client.
A simmering pot bubbles up and spills all over the stovetop.
I’m trying to do some yard work.
A neighbor drops by and engages me in conversation over the fence, totally oblivious to the dinnertime pressure the late afternoon hour means for me.
Life is full of interruptions – especially when you live in a house with kids who cry, fight, don’t want to do their schoolwork, and constantly mess up their surroundings. You might feel like you’re about to tear your hair out in frustration when you know all you need is an hour to finish a project, but you can’t even get 15 quiet minutes.
So how do I still handle things without going crazy?
Answer: I don’t. There are days when I feel I’m about to crack under the strain, but I do find that a few things help me keep the balance.
- I get up early in the morning. At least, I try, as tempting as it is to get a few more minutes of shut-eye. I have found out that my best chance of getting stuff done is early, before anyone else is up. But to do that, I need to go to bed early the day before – if I push myself to be productive after only 3-4 hours of sleep, I’m groggy all day long and won’t be much good for anything.
- I expect interruptions. I know I won’t have long quiet stretches of time throughout the day, and set realistic goals.
- I break up tasks into increments. Rather than say, “OK, I have an article to write/closet to rearrange/kitchen to clean and it will take one hour,” I say, “Now I write a few paragraphs/clean a couple of shelves, and it will take 15 minutes. After that, I’ll go on if nothing’s in the way.”
Even if I’m super organized and set my priorities just right, I can never do all I’ve planned – but usually, I have something to showcase at the end of each day, which is better than nothing.