Interruptable Time - some notes
By Lady Lazarus on January 09, 2014
For the eighth time this evening, I’ve had to stop what I was doing and fish legos out of my dog’s mouth. Before that, I was folding laundry and had to stop every third shirt to play with him. Before that, I had my entire to-do list for my day at work upended by a crisis that ended up revealing itself as nonsense. And hourly phone calls during which, I swear, other people called (never when I put the phone down, only when I was on it!). My email noise went off so much I gret uneasy when ten quiet minutes went by. Before that, I didn’t get to sit and have my coffee, or select a nicer outfit, or do anything with my hair - the dog had to go out and be walked for a half hour, and I had already slept late.
There is not a single thing I have done today, aside from going to the bathroom, that has not been interrupted. Not a one. And even now, my husband is texting me on his break at work. I have literally not had a single hour to myself to accomplish something from start to end.
This is life, of course. But it’s fascinating to me. When my husband retreats to his art room during his free time, the dog leaves him alone. The phone goes unanswered. The housework doesn't seem to loom on the edges of his vision. Almost nothing interrupts him. But i’m always working in shifts and segments. Fifteen minutes here, thirty there. I peck at projects like a magpie. Sometimes this works for me, but there are days it angers me.
It feels like my time is always interruptable. My time, my priorities, and my autonomy are all limited and sometimes this gets to me.
At work, I have to be interrupted. I get it, it’s part of the job. So I won’t complain too much about that, save to say that email is the worst thing for productivity ever. And I’m pro-tech! I truly believe we need correspondence hours at the office. Perhaps every other hour we tend ot email, then close the client and do other things for the next hour. The instantaneous communication is addicting. Not to mention you have to remember who gets offended at a delayed response (because of course I’m just eating bon bons and watching soaps all day! Those old 50s secretary stereotypes - TOTALLY TRUE!)
At home, however, I do resent the interruptions. For instance, I love Mr Lazarus dearly, but he doesn’t work in an office and can’t quite get the constant “on” and fractured attention I’m obliged to have. So sometimes I grouch at him when I’m busy and he asks me something, or makes a lot of noise (since I always have half an ear trained on everyone around me - thank you office culture!) when I’m trying to work on something at home. The interruptable nature of my time means that even though I have big chunks of “free” time after work, and on the weekends, I have far less productive time than he does. I can’t help it, I get resentful, I get cranky. Sometimes I even get angry because I do creative work too, and with very little time to do it in.
We’ve since become more evenhanded with the household tasks, which means less demands on me. And I’ve become strict about letting the dishes/laundry/pile of papers wait when I’m on a roll. I ask myself “Is it really necessary to interrupt myself to do this?” and “how urgent is this really?” Many times - not a majority but a substantial minority, I find that I can ignore what I think it about to interrupt me (the email, the dishes, the dust on the counter).
This makes me wonder, how much of this am I doing to myself? When home, am I being interrupted as much as I think I am, or am I still “on”, on purpose? Am I over-tasking because I’m still antsy after work? Or am I using the “GOD, fine, just sit there, I’LL do the dishes AGAIN” to prevent myself from writing or making something when I feel insecure. It’s not all in my head, but it’s worth questioning.