Managing Disruptions That Affect Your Productivity

September 2019

He can’t pass a flower garden without frantically ripping out a few trophies. And a sun-baked worm is a delicacy that’s never left behind. No, I tell myself … I’m not extracting that yucky prize from this puppy’s tangle of razor-sharp teeth. I surrender to the fact that it’s protein.

In early spring, three years had passed since our previous dog’s death. At 15 years old, Twister was entrenched in our home and hearts. I vowed that I would never get another dog—it’s too painful when they go. And then, one day, I was ready for a last pet to love and nurture. His name is Beans.

What was I thinking?

On July 5th, we brought home our almost-five-pound Boston Terrier (Boston Terror, according to my cousin Arlene, whose daughter has two). During the following four weeks, my husband and I were sleep deprived thinking Beans needed to relieve his tiny bladder every two hours in a 24-hour cycle. (On week five, our puppy trainer told us he was capable of sleeping through the night. You would have thought she handed us a winning lottery ticket.) We’ve spent lots of time teaching him to be a respectable family member. (Don’t eat the fringe on the Persian carpet. Do your business outdoors only. Furniture is not a chew toy. Don’t even think of going near those power cords, etc. In dog speak, this all translates to “Leave it!”)

Beans’ gentlemanly skills are evolving nicely and he promises to be a delightful companion for many years to come, but introducing a puppy into our otherwise very controlled home and work routines has been a prime disruption. I’ve raised puppies before, but this one has required lots of attention. As a result, I have needed to quickly find solutions to better manage my time to lessen the impact on my productivity and well-being.

Raise the surrender flag and then consider this.

There’s not a best practice to save time, but you can spend it better. Here’s a few ways to rejigger your tasks during your waking hours to stay balanced and effective when routines are disrupted for the short or long term.

1. First things first.

Take time to prioritize your tasks and assess what can be done by you, and what you can delegate to others. Consider outsourcing tasks to your trusted network, service providers or family members. (I hired a dog walker to help Beans burn away his midday puppy energy.)

2. Be honest with others about responsibilities (s_ _t happens to everyone; they will understand).

Rather than mask a personal crisis, medical appointment, a child’s school-related event, or other situations, let people know. Everyone should respect your privacy and priorities, so no details are needed. We all experience disruptions and it’s a more contemporary, helpful approach to understand others’ plight and achieve a work-life balance.

3. Are you really that busy? 

Cut out scanning social media, lingering over meals, or managing too many domestic chores. Yes, these things may be enjoyable or necessary, but your priority should be maintaining productivity and steadiness.

4. Say “no” so that you can say “yes” to the things you want to do. 

How many times have you agreed to a request only to feel resentment and disappointment build as soon as you utter “Sure, I can help”? It’s a disservice to both parties when you aren’t sincerely committed to helping. Move past the disease-to-please and base decisions on your priorities.

5. Let others know you are not the go-to person at this time. 

You may have many people relying on you to be the pulse of the office or the home … or both. Tell them it’s time for them to take the lead on problem solving as you need to shed some responsibilities. If ever there was a need for teamwork, it’s in a time of difficulty.

6. Change your schedule to meet your obligations. 

Working remotely is encouraged these days. Recently, Massachusetts’ governor proposed a new tax break to encourage companies to let their employees work from home. If this is an option for you, take advantage of working your required hours each day in an unconventional timeframe to accommodate your pressing personal obligations. If that doesn’t work, catch up with overdue tasks on the weekends.

7. Make time to restore yourself. 

A recent survey calculated that Americans are enjoying just 37 minutes of “quality time” as a family on weekdays. Two-thirds of the respondents identified their long work hours as the main culprit. And women enjoy an average of just 10 minutes a day of uninterrupted leisure time, according to a study cited in The Guardian. We need leisure time to stay healthy, creative and productive—especially while handling a disruption to our routines.

My world is still unsettled, but these tactics that examine and better manage how I spend my time are helping. In the past few months, I’ve watched Beans explore the world and I’ve taught him a lot. Experiencing this disruption has also reminded me to enjoy what I’m doing and really be present in my life … a more meaningful way of evaluating myself other than by accomplishing everything on my to-do list.

Maureen Joyce