This is the final part of the posts this month about dealing with distractions that stop you focusing on your most important tasks for the day. I assume you are here because you read the previous three and would like to read the fourth. If by some miracle, you haven’t please check them out here, here and here.
Picture this scenario. You are about to go into a meeting with a prospective client. That client could be the big client you have been working towards getting all year. The meeting will start in 30 seconds. You get a call from your spouse or a message asking you to call them. What do you do? Another scenario, If you work from home and have children, how do you stop them from walking in through the closed door to play with mom or dad?
Interruptions from family members require a different kind of tact than that you would use to deal with co-workers and friends. By definition, your family should be able to take up part of your time. The average parent wants to have time to spend with their children or spouse. You can’t threaten to throw them out the window if they call for trivial reasons. Yet you don’t want them thinking it’s ok to interrupt your day any time they feel like it.
The easiest way to deal with interruptions from family is to communicate your work needs clearly and set boundaries. Your work is important to you. Do not assume your family will understand when you would rather not be disturbed at work. Talk to your spouse about your work (caveat: spare them the technical details if they are not in the same sector as you and would rather not know). If you discuss your plans for work with them, they are often willing to accommodate your schedule. For example, letting them know you have a meeting with an important client between 10am and 12pm today sends them a good sign that they should only interrupt you if it’s an emergency. They will catch on to this and respect your need to focus.
You could also designate interruption free hours where you agree not to call each other at work except for emergencies. In exchange for this, you designate other hours in the evening to catch up on each other’s day and to spend time together. Make sure you respect both hours not just the interruption free hours. When it’s workfree hours, leave all things related to the office behind and just spend time enjoying each other company. Your spouse will thank you for it and you will also be more productive.
If you have children, train them to recognise when you are busy. Let them know you need to make money in order to pay for things like food and rent. If you can’t work, you won’t be able to make money and that could mean at best no new toys for them or at worst, they could starve. If your children are old enough, teach them skills that will help them become independent such as cooking simple dishes and doing the laundry. They will have to learn those skills anyway as they grow up. As a bonus, you won’t get disturbed whenever they feel hungry if they can fix themselves a quick snack.
What has been your greatest challenge in getting your family to respect your boundaries? Do you work from home with children? Do share your experiences.