As women, we usually have many things to balance, and that is something we have to learn to navigate in order to be successful. I, for example, have eight children quite close together in age. I am a home maker, a vocation which requires a varied set of skills and the ability to coordinate things and make them all work together. I do the budgeting, cleaning, cooking, shopping, planning, child care, laundry, decorating, figure out ways of saving money and so on and so forth. It’s all in a day’s work. Interruptions are a daily, hourly, often on the minute occurrence in my life.
It may be true that we can put out our best work when we eliminate distractions completely, but unfortunately this is a difficult arrangement to find as women. For whatever reason, I think men are more likely to be taken seriously when they say, “honey, I’m going to be writing for the next hour, please see that I’m not disturbed”. Without making any statement on the fairness of this, I can merely say that it rings true in my life. As often as I may request an undisturbed period of time, it is highly infrequently that it ever occurs. Frequent distraction is simply the reality of my life, as it is for many of us.
The truth of the matter is that, from my point of view and in my situation, undisturbed time is a luxury. In my life, it’s vital to learn to live and work around distractions. Working around the specifics of my personal life is actually going to make me more efficient in the long run than if I require a special set of luxurious circumstances in order to get things done.
It is wonderful to have a supportive family who is in line with your goals and shares many of your same values. Getting your spouse on board with your plans is a great idea and it would be difficult to proceed with any long term plan without doing so. I have to caution against relying too heavily on the support of others, though. The flip-side of this mindset is that if we simply have no support, we can not try to work towards our goals.
If not having adequate support is enough to derail your goals, you are going to have to rely more strongly on your own inner fortitude. We do not all have the luxury of a supportive spouse who is happy for us to pursue any path we wish. Some spouses wish we’d focus solely on, say, keeping the house in order or caring for the children. They may not be supportive at all of us having goals and intentions for doing our own thing, and we can’t necessarily change that. And many of us are single parents, without a partner who can watch the kids to allow us to put full focus on our work. A lack of support or having someone else to take the reins for a while should not mean we give up.
So how do we, as busy and often-distracted people, get anything done?
First, it is wise to eliminate whatever distractions you feasibly can. Putting your phone on airplane mode may not be wise for you if you are the primary caregiver to children, but you can close any unnecessary apps on your phone or computer that you find too distracting, and you can put your phone on silent mode. More important is that you simply commit yourself to not touching another app until you’ve done your writing.
It can be difficult to focus if you feel you may be distracted at any moment, but I’d say that’s a matter of practice. If I can meditate or read or do yoga with children milling around me and sometimes climbing on me, I can manage this. Practice using that self discipline we’ve been working on and find out what you need to do to work around your personal temptations and distractions.
Next, put your steely self-determination on and force yourself to focus as well as you can, even though there is the possibility of a child wandering into your sacred thinking space at any second. Bolster yourself with your own inner strength rather than relying on setting up a perfect, protected atmosphere for concentration. As with any skill, the ability to focus under these conditions will improve with practice.
Determine to yourself that, if interrupted, you are going to deal promptly with anything that needs your immediate attention, and get straight back into your work. Remember that if you are interrupted, it is just life, and your current work is not the most important thing in your world. Everything you do is working towards your life goals, including helping your children. If the interruption comes from your child, treat them with kindness and gentleness, make sure they have something to keep them busy, and then get back to work.
Third, show yourself some grace. Some days your writing or working time is simply not going to be as fruitful as other days. You have a lot on your plate. This is the nature of working with a family and with many other responsibilities. You will always put your heart and soul into it, and sometimes it will not work out the way you hoped, and that’s okay. You will still come back to your desk the next time, put your heart and soul into it again, and hopefully have a better day.
The important thing is that consistency and drive to take action, over, and over, and over again. It’s a commitment to yourself and honouring that commitment daily is what will get you cruising forward on your path.
Fourth, see if you can find a time of day to do your writing that is quieter and has less interruptions. For me, this is achieved by waking up at 5:30am, before any of my children are generally awake. Yes, this was a hard adjustment to make at first, and I still have a rough time occasionally now, but I find I really enjoy it and even look forward to it. It’s a special time for me to get some work done and I feel like it really engages my brain and gets me going for the day.
I’m sure it is wonderful to be able to focus 100% on the work ahead of you, but if you are in a position where this is not realistic for you, please do not see this as a roadblock on your path. This is merely another trial, through which we women are encouraged to build up our inner strength and versatility. This is how we end up achieving so much, despite less-than-perfect circumstances. I hope that this article will help you to see a distracting environment as a challenge, not an obstruction, and find your own way of working and thriving within it.