I used to be the kind of person who would work on a project until it was done. If it took me eight hours, no problem, didn’t matter. I didn’t even stop to eat. Chances were good, I knew, that I would never finish the craft or organization job if I didn’t finish it right then. I’m just not that kind of person. Except now I am. Because motherhood changes everything.

Yesterday, I was writing a letter to a friend. It had been months since she wrote back to me, and I finally received her reply. My excitement after reading her words inspired me to write back right away. Baby was napping, so it was feasible. It meant setting aside all my other projects that I hoped to get done during nap time, but I didn’t mind interrupting those for this important task.

Then I opened the magazine she had sent with the letter, and was blown away by the editor’s note. Yes, the editor’s note – I didn’t even get to the actual material. I thought I would have enough time to interrupt my letter writing to type out the note so I could keep it and read it again. Maybe even have time to get to my blog after finishing my letter to my friend, if I was lucky.

I was not lucky. Not even close. I didn’t get more than two paragraphs into typing the editor’s note when the baby woke up. Which means I didn’t get back to my letter and I didn’t get back to blogging, or the projects on my ongoing to-do list (stay tuned for future post about practical to-do lists).

Motherhood is all about being interrupted. It forces the selfishness out of me. Doesn’t matter what I want if the baby needs to be fed, or needs to be changed, or won’t stop pulling on my pant leg unless I pick her up and cuddle her for a minute.

This may have been the hardest adjustment for me in becoming a mom. Certainly, I relish my unbroken time to write, read, sleep, eat, or simply check my email without wondering if my daughter is chewing on an electrical cord or eating the cardboard box her crackers came in. I value that time a lot more than I used to, when I had an abundance of it. But more than that, being interrupted has taught me the greater value in coming back to a project.

If I didn’t foster the discipline of coming back to my projects, then nothing, and I mean NOTHING would ever get done, because I never ever ever have time for finishing anything in one sitting anymore. Ever. That’s why I am grateful for interruptions. Because without them, I would not have learned the discipline of finishing what I start. It’s still hard for me, but I am working on making myself come back to the half-finished task and complete it (or work on it a little, get interrupted, and come back again. And again, and again. Until it is finally finished). And at the end, there is still satisfaction, perhaps even more so, that I am done, and I finished what I started.

What prevents you from finishing what you start? How can you foster the discipline of coming back to a project?

By the way, I think I hear the baby waking up…

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