If you have children and are working out of your home, you’ll have to deal with distractions. That’s just one of those fun facts.
And you have a couple of ways of dealing with it. Sometimes you can hire a sitter and sometimes your kids’ other parent can help. But for most of us business owning moms, it’s going to fall to us to deal with.
I’d bet that each child, or maybe each household, has his own rhythm of distractions. It took me a while to see this. At our house, we seem to have a major disruption quarterly (emergency room visit, illness, surprise school project due tomorrow…) and weekly small disruptions (calls from school).
If you can notice your own schedule of distractions, you can better plan for them. But, unfortunately, they’re still going to come at times that are the most inconvenient for you and your work schedule.
The absolute worst thing about these distractions is that it’s not just the time you lose dealing with the distraction, but the time you lose floundering around trying to figure out what to do when you get back to your schedule.
For days like these, I have a Minimum Viable Work Day task list.
My most recent distraction day
My son is a Scout and he was joining the Troup for a day of service projects at a state park. Since the park was an hour and a half away, and because the Troop always needs adults around, even if we’re not leading, I planned to go and stay there all day.
I worked out all the work tasks I could do while I had downtime – mostly some good planning for 2020 and writing blog posts and sales pages along with my everyday work. Work that needs some focus. I was actually pretty excited for this time because I like to get out of my regular routine & environment when I do planning.
But, at 7:00pm the night before the trip, it got canceled. (Arg!!! I’d spent the day gathering supplies, gear, and snacks!) The alternate activity was one my son couldn’t do. So he would be home all day with me. Slight panic, but I had this.
My son is pretty self-sufficient, but most of that self-sufficiency involves screen time of the useless variety – games, shows, videos. He’ll do other things if I direct him (but then I have to direct), and if other kids were around, he would have played with them (but they weren’t).
Therefore, when I have to work when we’re both home, some screen time just has to happen so I can work. But, I don’t want him on his tablet all day long. Unfortunately, this day was the day my website decided to crash. I’m a pro, so I fixed it, but it took all morning to diagnose and fix. It was one of those combination problems with a few red herrings in there. A perfect storm problem on a perfect storm day. By the time I was done, it was time to stop work, make lunch, and drag the kiddo away from the tablet.
I hadn’t gotten anything done work-wise.
Minimum Viable Work Day (MVWD)
I used to be defeated by days like these. I would have just put the work aside and started fresh the next day. But then it wouldn’t really have been fresh – I would be behind on a few things and have to spend part of the day playing catch-up.
On this day though, I didn’t. I looked at my list of tasks for my Minimum Viable Work Day, and knocked through those in the evening, and started the next day, pretty much on track.
On my list of priorities, I have a few things that *must* get done before I go to bed. They’re pretty small, but they keep a momentum going that works magic for me.
I didn’t get any planning done – I have to reschedule that, and honestly, it may have to happen on the weekend. But I did do some basic tasks to set me up for a good next day. For me, on that day, those tasks were mapping out my writing for the next day by selecting subjects and making outlines, as well as keeping up with some social media posting.
The items on the MVWD task list change day to day and over time. It’s counter-intuitive, but keeping up with the small incremental tasks that are the easiest to put off seems to make the most impact for me.
MVWD Task List
Here’s how I order my MVWD task list and how you can approach building yours.
First, I evaluate client work. Anything due the next day? Is that a published schedule, or my internal schedule? Will finishing or not finishing this work impact anyone else’s work? I’m trying to determine here if I really need to do it. Usually, I don’t and just thinking through is enough.
But if it’s something I’ve promised to a client, or it will impact another person on my team, I suck it up and stay up late to finish. The real truth though is that I almost never have this situation.
Second, I look at business admin tasks. The only ones that can’t wait until the next day involve taxes and licenses. For the rest, again, thinking about them and rescheduling is enough of a reminder.
Third, I set up my next day’s tasks. For me right now, that’s content writing. I take a few minute to start a document with an outline or ideas so that I can jump into work the next day. As of this writing, I’m writing three articles per week and publishing two. (the holidays taught me that I need to build up a buffer!) So even if I didn’t write on one day, if I do a little prep work, I can help with the writing for following days.
And finally, I do the minimum needed for small tasks. At this moment, it’s social media posting and scanning through emails to see if I have anything that important to me and urgent. If so, I’ll address them.
Time Saving and Momentum
Even though I lost a good deal of time, I was able to keep some momentum going with my Minimum Viable Work Day. I only spent about an hour working that day, but it saved me the next day. I was able to get started right away. I didn’t waste time trying to remember or re-figure-out what needed doing.
If I had given up entirely on my distracted day, I would also have a lost a big part of the following day to that distraction.
I encourage you to build your own Minimum Viable Work Day task list. You might have completely different items on your list than I do right now, but you can definitely achieve the same benefits.