I have a home office that is off a children’s den. It’s a nice space, but has no door. When family comes to visit, they are often intrusive while I’m 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 I’m 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 it’s not. While they know we’ll all be busy and understand that, I don’t think they really get it because they’ve never been understanding in the past when I just have to work and can’t leave for lunch, etc. Should I drop the kids at school and head to a coffee shop to work? Or simply say, “I’d love to hang out but I really have so many deadlines?”
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 won’t get the project completed. He’ll hear a conversation, or they’ll pop in and ask “a quick question.” And it’s 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 aren’t 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.
You’ll remove yourself from the distractions of family. You’ll 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 don’t have to think about rushing your work to accommodate them. Let everyone know when you’ll be leaving and when you’ll be arriving back home. By the way, it might be a good idea to tee this up before the visit. Let everyone know you’re swamped, you’ll be working off site, and that you’ll gladly join them for lunch on Tuesday and Friday. Then, when you’re not working, do all you can to leave work behind and be a gracious host.