How to Be Productive When All Hell Breaks Loose

How do you stay focused when it feels like the world is swirling around you?

What should you do?

Where do you start when distractions abound, “life happens”, business deadlines loom, and it feels like all hell is breaking loose around you?

I’m here to tell you that you can be effective. You can be productive even when it feels like an impossibility.

Let me give you a visual and real example.  When we adopted 3 baby kittens and brought them home on an unsuspecting Saturday, everything about being productive in my home office changed. They were only 12 weeks old and for the first few weeks we had them, their access to the house was restricted only to my office.  (Yes, I am crazy, but it was the best room for them to be in and actually be with people during the day and learn where the litter box was going to reside.)

Dealing with Distractions


As you might imagine those first few weeks were like trying to work in the middle of a 3-ring circus with cyclonic tendencies.  I called it working while under kitty siege. There were kittens crawling up my legs, turning off the computer randomly (the power button was on top of their “stepping stool” to the desk), and chasing each other like wild mustangs.  As if that were not enough distraction, the are tragically cute and I just wanted to play and snuggle with them.

But there was work to do. Within that first week of “kitten city” alone, I conducted live Skype video intensives with a client, completed several major projects, conducted exploratory calls with prospects, served my clients, and did my usual marketing and administrative tasks.

You might not have new kittens, but my guess is that you have experienced times like I describe. Whether it is due to small children, teenagers needing something, getting the flu, caring for a sick loved one, navigating a big business challenge, moving your home/office, or some other “life happens” moment, the inevitable bursts of feeling like “all hell is breaking loose” is inevitable.

And, as a self-employed business owner there is still work to be done.

Here’s how I stayed productive without being overwhelmed and how you can too.

First the Inner Awareness:

  • Acknowledge what is really going on. Don’t try to ignore or gloss over what IS. It doesn’t work. Be honest and get real with yourself.
  • Give yourself permission to honor ALL of what you are experiencing and what you really want.
  • Adjust your expectations (you can’t do everything and be everywhere all at the same time so skip the perfectionist tendencies and conflicted feelings).
  • Make your decisions from the wise place of both head and heart.  Embrace the choices you make without guilt. There is no, one “right” answer.


Next, Practical Action:

  • Do what you’re doing while you’re doing it.  Give full attention to the task at hand from moment to moment, and let the rest be OK.
  • Adjust, negotiate, or ditch project timing as need be to accommodate the situation.  Don’t stay stubbornly committed to something “just because”. You have more flexibility than you think, especially if you communicate fully to others impacted by your decisions.
  • Don’t bite the hook with every distraction and go running off course.  This was very crucial to my ability to be fully present with clients and not go see what was going on every time I heard a noise, crash, or meow.
  • Create times to attend to the other matters that are going on for you. If the situation is unplanned, this means you need to triage your schedule on the fly.  For me, that meant definitive play times and breaks to be with the kittens 100% without guilt or the need to “get back to work”. Even with this planning, stay open to spontaneous changes to the plan.
  • Take good care of yourself. When something goes wrong, the first thing to go in peoples’ schedules are all the self-care and high performance habits. You need to be well to deal effectively with the added pressures whether they are wanted (i.e., kittens) or unwanted (i.e., illness). Keep your personal wellness commitments.


Don’t let life’s inevitable ups and downs send you and your business into a tailspin.  Practice these tips and you can be productive, compassionate, and present for the things that matter most to you.

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