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Interruptions are bound to happen when you’re trying to grow a business as a busy mom. In this post, you’ll discover several proven techniques on how to handle interruptions as a work-from-home mom.
It never fails.
Anytime I sit down at my computer to write a blog post, during the day bam! I get interrupted.
It could be the baby needing a diaper change. Or a child eating dirt. Or a fight of epic proportions breaking out between two of my kids.
It may be multiplication problems causing a meltdown. Or a toilet-training toddler needing to be wiped.
Exactly what the interruption is doesn’t matter. What does is how I respond to it.
Because interruptions as a work-from-home mom come with the territory. The key is learning how to gracefully handle the interruptions so you can take care of it and get back to work.
I’ve discovered some crucial truths about dealing with interruptions. And found five strategies for handling them.
Ready to dive in?
The Truth About Interruptions as a Work-from-Home Mom
Before you can deal with interruptions, you must learn more about them.
The most important thing I’ve discovered is that my attitude makes all the difference when faced with interruptions.
If I choose to be annoyed and get mad at every interruption I face, I will never get any work done. I’ll be too busy being mad and annoyed and letting everyone around me know that I’ve been interrupted.
Acknowledging the interruption, taking care of it pleasantly, and getting back to work is much better.
Then there’s no wasted time or energy spent feeding negative emotions. Remember that your kids take their cues from you, so if you are upset, they will be too.
Your kids are watching you, and your business can be a great thing for them.
But, if all they remember is that every time Mom sat down to work, she got furious and started yelling…that’s not a benefit to your kids.
So important truth number one about interruptions as a work-at-home mom is that your attitude matters.
Types of Interruptions
There are three main types of interruptions you will face regularly as a work-from-home mom.
How you handle the interruptions depends greatly on what type it is.
1. Interruptions You Can Control
The first category includes interruptions you can control. And by control, I mean set limits around.
These interruptions include things like:
- Unscheduled phone calls
- Notifications on social media
- New emails
- Text messages
These interruptions can disrupt your workflow and train of thought if you let them. Or you can proactively take steps to prevent them from bothering you.
It’s important to use your phone as a tool to work for you, not against you. Proactively shut off notifications and other distractions that can become interruptions, and you will maximize your productivity.
2. Emergency Interruptions
Thankfully, these interruptions don’t happen frequently, but they need to be addressed since emergencies happen.
Especially if you’re working from home with a child with special needs who is medically complex. Or working on a farm where stubborn cows decide to find every loose spot in the fence…
So if you’re working and suddenly:
- Your kiddo falls and gets hurt
- The cows are running amok in the middle of the road
- You’re getting evacuated for a nearby forest fire
Take a deep breath. Remember to stay calm – you don’t help the situation one iota by panicking.
The emergency at this point takes precedence. Do what you need to do. Your work will still be waiting for you when you get back.
If possible, take your phone along and send a quick text or email to your clients (if you have a deadline you know you will miss.)
Also, remember that not everything is an emergency. Emergencies are typically relatively infrequent and come up unexpectedly.
A scheduled doctor appointment is NOT an emergency. Neither is a grocery shopping expedition.
Those are things you can plan around. You probably even wrote them on your schedule. Emergencies don’t get scheduled, okay?
Pro tip: Don’t miss client deadlines and tell them it was an emergency when it really wasn’t.
3. Normal Interruptions
Most interruptions fall into this category. They are little things that creep up that are NOT emergencies, but DO need to be taken care of.
- Kids needing direction/guidance/instruction
- Spilled water (or milk or whatever)
- The LEGO bucket dumping
- The toilet overflowing
- A broken dish
These things happen. They are unexpected. You can’t simply shut your phone off and avoid the interruption.
They pull your time and attention momentarily off of your work.
But they aren’t emergencies that require you to stop everything.
Most interruptions do fall into this category. So keep reading to learn five specific things you can do to handle these interruptions as a work-from-home mom.
How to Handle Interruptions When You Work from Home
Now that you know what types of interruptions might happen, let’s talk about how to address them. That way you can create a plan and be ready to implement it the next time life happens.
1. Acknowledge the Interruption
When something happens, mentally acknowledge it. Say something like, “I’m going to go clean up that mess and then get back to writing this post.”
This helps your mind transitions from one task to the next. It prepares you to step away and then come back.
When you realize that the interruption is only a temporary thing, it is no longer a crisis in your mind.
And often, bad attitudes about interruptions happen when we see everything as a crisis. When you have a plan about how to handle the interruption, it makes it easier to deal with.
2. Leave Yourself Clues
Sometimes, focusing on your work after an interruption is a challenge. You may have lost your train of thought or your “oomph” for tackling this task.
Help yourself get back in the groove by leaving clues. These make it easier for you to pick up where you left off.
Maybe you take a few seconds to write five keywords before handling the interruption.
Or start each work session with an outline so you know where you’re going.
If I’m in the middle of client work as a VA, I may mark something in bold to help me remember where I’m at when I come back.
I’ve been known to write myself a note. Or enlarge a specific image so I know where I’m at in the task.
Do what you need to do to help your brain remember what it was doing when you get back to work.
The easier it is for you to get going again, the greater the chances that you will get going.
3. Know What You Can Ignore
My house has a baseline level of noise. When the level rises significantly above that or drops significantly below that, I know it’s time to go investigate.
In your house, there are likely plenty of noises and other stimuli you can safely ignore. When you are only dealing with interruptions that are truly interruptions, you can get more done.
Otherwise, you may be getting up way too frequently.
Tip: The “too quiet” moments are usually worse than the “too loud” ones. Investigate silence stat…
4. Enjoy the Moments
Kids grow so quickly! My oldest is 21 and away at college, and I don’t even know where the time went…
These interruptions you are dealing with now will not happen forever. Your challenges will change over time.
And while it’s frustrating to leave your work to help clean up a mess, it’s a chance for you to teach your kiddo how to react gracefully.
So put a smile on your face, and enjoy the moment together. Grab a rag, and both of you clean. Sing a song or chat while you work. Hug your kiddo and let them know they’re loved before going back to work.
You will both benefit from this response!
Kids are kids, and they are prone to mess-making and causing interruptions. But kids are definitely an asset to your business, not a burden!
5. Delegate, if Possible
You don’t need to respond to every interruption if someone else can handle it.
I’ll often ask an older child to help a younger sibling get a drink. Or reach for something on a higher shelf.
I also ask my husband to tackle things for me when he is home and I’m working.
By delegating, you can keep working, which is great!
Get Back to Work ASAP
No matter the interruption, do your best to return to work ASAP. Otherwise, you risk not ever returning.
It’s so easy for negative self-talk to discourage us, especially when we’re dealing with interruptions.
You might think of words like:
- No one else has to deal with these things…
- My kids can’t handle me having a business
- If I was good at this, I’d be able to work through the interruption
Or something along those lines.
But those thoughts are not the truth. You can do this. And other people struggle. You are not alone.
Interruptions mean you have a busy family who needs you – but they do not mean you aren’t meant to have a business.
So shut down the negativity with some positive truths. Tell yourself:
- I’m going to take care of these interruptions and then I’m coming back to finish [task]
- Working from home with kids is hard but not impossible
- Women worked from home with their kids for most of our history
And then, get back to the task you were working on. You really can make progress – even when it feels like you’re taking two steps backward for every one forward some days.
How Do You Handle Interruptions as a Work from Home Mom?
I’d love for you to share your strategies in the comments! And if you need help creating a personalized plan, I offer coaching!
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.