Stealing Moments of Productivity


    Miriam reverses roles in this post, asking friends and readers how they make the most of times when they know they could be interrupted at any moment.

    Dear Readers,

    Every once in a while, a question comes up in my own life, and I think, "If only I had an advice column to submit this to!" Those are the moments when crowdsourcing on social media really comes in handy, though, ironically, my question is also about how to stop wasting time on Facebook.

    Here's what I posted the other day:

    "Since my kids' naps could end at any moment, I can't start anything new. Instead, I just end up looking at Facebook or other things online that can easily be interrupted but are a terrible use of my brief free moments. Does anyone have a solution to this ultimate problem of time management?"

    I got some great responses and a lot of empathy, which also helped me realize that this problem isn't limited to parents during naps. Similar time windows can emerge while waiting for the bus, for a meeting to start or really any time the word "waiting" is involved in describing your current activity. 

    Full disclosure: Most of my columns lately have been written while my kids are napping, which proves that I am able to start some discrete tasks and come back to them if need be. It's usually the unpredictably-sized chunk of time once I finish writing a column that I struggle to fill in ways that don't make my eyes glaze over.

    A lot of the suggestions I received are limited to what can be accomplished while in your own home, but I think the sentiments are still pretty universal:

    • Embrace having a few extra moments to browse the Internet. There's nothing inherently wrong with checking Facebook, and taking advantage of friends who post substantive articles can be a great way to catch up on current events or interesting viewpoints without having to find the articles yourself.
    • Order groceries online. (Sounds very productive!)
    • Have a little arts and crafts project in every room so there's always something to work on.
    • Browse Pinterest for ideas for future crafts projects. (While I'm not likely to do either of these crafty things, I love fantasizing about being the kind of person who might!)
    • Tackle tasks that would be much harder to do with the kids awake but that don't ultimately take much time, like showering, paying bills or emptying the dishwasher.
    • Do things for yourself like yoga, writing or talking to friends. (Those are exactly the kinds of things that I want to avoid starting if I know I'm going to be interrupted, so it was eye-opening to realize that others are able to do, say, a 5-minute chunk of yoga and still have it feel satisfying and interruptable.)

    As a result of these helpful comments, I feel empowered to browse Facebook if that's what I find myself doing. I also feel validated to be productive or not, depending on my mood.

    Sometimes it's nice to receive advice as well as give it, so in addition to appreciating my very resourceful and thoughtful Facebook friends, I'd love to hear from the rest of you: How do you spend your time when you know you could be interrupted at any moment?

    Looking forward to hearing from you, and be well,