I have a home office that is off a childrenís den. Itís a nice space, but has no door. When family comes to visit, they are often intrusive while Iím working because they can be. Especially my mother-in-law who frequently busts in asking if she can print this, or do I have a stamp, or can you take me here. How do I deal with the feeling of guilt while Iím working? I often hurry to finish just so that I can take them to lunch. Usually their visits are at a slower time of the year, but this year itís not. While they know weíll all be busy and understand that, I donít think they really get it because theyíve never been understanding in the past when I just have to work and canít leave for lunch, etc. Should I drop the kids at school and head to a coffee shop to work? Or simply say, ďIíd love to hang out but I really have so many deadlines?Ē
K.W. Madison, MS
I have a nephew who works at The Emily Post Institute. He has a book deadline and a lot of work to do. Recently, I told him that even though people at the office know he has to do work, if he comes to the office he will be interrupted, and he wonít get the project completed. Heíll hear a conversation, or theyíll pop in and ask ďa quick question.Ē And itís not that his colleagues are intentionally interrupting him, but it happens. So I told him to stop coming into the office in the morning. Now he spending three to four hours each morning working at a local coffee shop getting the project completed.
Similarly, in your case the interruptions arenít going to stop. You have no door. You have a mother-in-law who has a history of repeated interruptions. And now you have work to do.
The path of least resistance and the path that has the best chance of you getting your work done: Get out of the house.
Youíll remove yourself from the distractions of family. Youíll stop them from having the opportunity to interrupt you, even if it is unintentional. You can control your schedule. You can offer to go to lunch one or two days while they are visiting, but the other days you donít have to think about rushing your work to accommodate them. Let everyone know when youíll be leaving and when youíll be arriving back home. By the way, it might be a good idea to tee this up before the visit. Let everyone know youíre swamped, youíll be working off site, and that youíll gladly join them for lunch on Tuesday and Friday. Then, when youíre not working, do all you can to leave work behind and be a gracious host.