Mommy Block: Being Productive Despite Distractions

How to Get Past Diversions and Get Started

Writer’s Block is SO real. Sometimes, to get through it, you just have to sit down and start writing, hoping something will pour out of the pen onto the page. And most times, if you just BEGIN, you end up being productive.

Mommy Block is also SO real.

You look around, and there’s all this stuff to be done and creative ideas to turn into reality, but it is all so overwhelmingly diverting that you just want to sit down and escape into a book or several episodes of Supernatural on TNT (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki saving the world *sigh*). Whether it’s reruns on TNT or playdates at the park, distractions abound that delay productivity. Here are some steps to get past this.

Recognize Your Distractions

Diversions, interruptions, recreations – in the end, no matter what you name it, a distraction is a distraction. At home, there’s television and books and a kitten, a dog, a porch, a yard, a piece of paper I need to find or a missing sock that I must find or I’m going to go crazy howaretheresomanylostsocks?!?! – the list goes on and on. Or someone says, “Let’s meet for coffee/playdate/project,” and suddenly, the pile of laundry and the dirty dishes seems not so important. I justify getting distracted with a mental scale: my responsibilities on one side and “me time” on the other. Almost ALL my time is spent with the children, so the few hours that I’m not carpooling or seeing about them can easily (in my mind) turn into time for myself instead of being productive at home.

Recognizing distractions for what they are is the first step in getting past them. When I go ahead and own them, then I can move past them.

Write Your Lists

Writing down thoughts, ideas, and to-do lists are a way to free my mind and allow me to focus. If “IT” is written down, then my mind isn’t a jumble of what to do and when (which becomes never). Even going so far as to break down the laundry on the list helps me get through the steps: 1) wash clothes; 2) dry clothes; 3) fold children’s clothes; 4) fold adult clothes; 5) put children clothes away; 6) put adult clothes away. This may seem excessive, but you wouldn’t believe how much easier it is to get through with this ONE task if I break it down into mini-tasks. It is less overwhelming, and I am not diverted from the chore. This breakdown also applies to pretty much everything else at home. “Clean up children’s room” is frightening, but “put books on shelf, make beds, hang clothes,” are a few simple things that make a big difference.

Writing down what needs to be done, step by step, allows me to focus my thoughts into a logical order. With order, I can be productive.

Set Your Timer

Timing the tasks and chores that are on lists saves me from my attention deficit. With the timers on my Apple watch, iPhone, Amazon Alexa, and microwave, I can make our household run like a factory. On my most accomplished days, I’ll have several timers going at once: 1) 10-minute timer for cleaning up in bedrooms so I can race the clock to see how much can be done in ten minutes; 2) 30-minute timer per room so I don’t get bogged down in one place; 3) 90-minute timer to complete the entire second floor … It really is amazing how much that can get done if I’m trying to beat the clocks. Full disclosure: I am only this productive occasionally (occasions include my mom visiting or the housekeeper arriving).

Ultimately, the shorter time frames work the best helping me to get things done. A clock ticking with short time frames is a really good way to tackle getting toys into bins and clothes into drawers. Timers give me short-term goals that are easy to achieve and keep me from being distracted. With an end in sight, I am able to concentrate on what needs to be done and am not overwhelmed.

Begin Your Tasks

Starting can be the hardest part, but it’s the “one foot in front of the other” approach to all of this that makes it possible to not be distracted, diverted, or overwhelmed. Turning off the television, putting the phone away, setting the book aside, and sadly, sometimes saying no to friends for coffees and playdates is step one. If you’re going to try this, try turning off all your media (except for maybe the radio). That’s what I do. Next, I take a pad and pencil and go room to room writing down what needs to be done along with a list of what errands need to happen outside of the house. And then, I pick a room, set the timer, and get started. Anything that doesn’t belong in that room goes in a basket. That timer makes a big difference to my thoughts not wandering and not leaving that room or space until the clock chimes (the basket at the door helps too – things can be put away as you get to the places they belong). Just beginning means I’ve taken a step toward the finish. Momentum is everything, and it’s hard to stop once the ball is rolling.

Writer’s Block and Mommy Block can be conquered!

I had a writing professor in college who gave our class steps a lot like this for brainstorming, pre-writing, and rewrites when we were working on memoirs, and I enjoyed the process of seeing my words form into a story. It must have worked pretty well because I got an “A.” Similarly, my mom also has these same types of strategies for getting her house in order – and her house (and car and purse and and and) always pretty much picture perfect. When I apply her methods, my home is all the better for it. There are other examples but these two stick out most clearly in my mind. I practiced this with my writing today and wound up with this article. Tomorrow, I’m going to do the house.


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