Working From Home: A Lesson in Constant Interruptions

Many people imagine that the freelance life is the stuff of dreams: No daily commute, no boss, working in your pajamas.

It can be an especially attractive work arrangement for new parents. People with young children often work for "free" as their wages only just cover the astronomical costs of daycare.

I was one of these parents, casually throwing around comments like "I'll work when he naps" or "I'll set up activities and work while he plays." A more experienced parent may offer a helpful "Bless your heart!" But, like so many life lessons, I had to learn the hard way through trial and (spectacular) error.

On the bright side, scientists are discovering that interruptions actually fosters creativity in the brain. "Creativity is just one skill that gets sharpened with distraction," says Chris Weller of Medical Daily. I recorded a typical working day for me at home.

7:00 a.m. My toddler has already been up for an hour, the coffee is on, I settle down to check my e-mails and goals for the day

7:15 a.m. My son requires breakfast, I set him up, put a TV show on for him and get back to work

7:20 a.m. He wants a different show, I change it, settle back to work

7:30 a.m. He has finished eating and wants to play, I clean up his breakfast things, set up the building bricks for him

8:00 a.m. My son now wants to do some artwork, I set up some supplies and go back to work

8:30 a.m. Time to get him ready for pre-school

9:00 a.m. I drop him off at pre-school and return home, anticipating three hours of peaceful and productive work time

9:05 a.m. The telephone rings, a telemarketer asking me if I need my ducts cleaned, I think he says "ducks" so it takes a few moments to get off the phone and back to work

10:00 a.m. The doorbell rings, the snowplow has arrived and I am being asked to move the car so it can clear my parking spot

10:20 a.m. The doorbell rings again, my neighbor has a package and the mailman needs me to sign for it

10:30 a.m. I decide to put some laundry on but when I get down there I realize my husband left a load in the dryer that needs to be folded before it gets wrinkled, so this takes much longer than I expect

11:00 a.m. I look at the clock and see I only have one hour before I have to pick my son up from preschool, ahhh! Where did the time go?

11:15 a.m. My husband calls me and reminds me to get the chicken out of the freezer for dinner tonight, while I am doing that, I put the dishes away and make a quick marinade for the chicken

11:30 a.m. OK, FOCUS, you can do this! Bing, my mother in law starts sending me online messages about a family event on the weekend, I write back short replies but because I am home she assumes I am free to chat

11:35 a.m. A knock at the door, some children are collecting for a charity event at their school, it takes me 5 minutes to find my purse and give them a donation

11:40 a.m. The phone rings, an interview subject I needed to speak with last month is finally getting back to me, the article was timely so it wouldn't work now but it's hard to get him off the phone

11:45 a.m. The cat throws up, literally, on my feet. So gross. It takes me a little while to clean up and make sure she is OK, looking at the clock I realize I have to leave to pick my son up from preschool

12:15 p.m. Back from preschool with my son, I won't be able to work again until I have given him lunch and put him down for his nap

1:30 p.m. My son is sleeping, so I get back to work

1:35 p.m. He is NOT sleeping and has decided it's playtime

2:30 p.m. My husband arrives home and takes our son out for a walk so I can concentrate

2:45 p.m. My computer decides to shut down to do a scheduled maintenance that I totally forgot was happening

3:00 p.m. My mom calls and we speak for a while, I live far away from her so even though I have work to do, I can't bring myself to get off the call

3:30 p.m. My son arrives home and asks me to play with him, he says 'pretty please' so I can't refuse him!

4:00 p.m. I start dinner and tidy up the house a little

4:30 p.m. I sit down at my desk again and attempt to concentrate on my last project of the day, I have my most productive working period of the day

5:30 p.m. Dinner time, I give my son a bath, read him some stories, and put him down to sleep

7:00 p.m. I eat dinner with my husband and clean up

8:00 p.m. I manage two hours of concentrated peaceful work before I have to get ready for bed

10:00 p.m. Bed

In a 15 hour day, I had exactly 6 hours and 20 minutes of concentrated, productive work time. Am I feeling any more creative? Only time will tell.