We are renovating at the moment. Renovating involves taking our roof off. And so we are living with my parents. For three months (at least). With our two young children.

My parents have a tenant as well. And I have three younger sisters, two of whom have young babies. They like to come by and sometimes sleep on the couch, or in my parents bed if they’re trying to nap during the day.

My mother turned 60 last weekend. We had a big party. And an after party. And some house guests stayed on. And then there were a few more dinner parties. And then – what the hell! You only turn 60 once! – a few more impromptu gatherings, with and without the spa, the fire and music, always music. (Nina and Jimi and Janis and Frank and John.)

The point of this story is not to celebrate celebrations, the importance of rites of passage or ageing disgracefully while sucking the marrow out of life. The purpose of this article is to share what I do to get stuff done when there is little or no time and countless distractions.

What priorities?

We all have priorities that compete for our attention. What gets done is what we prioritise. Sometimes these are our priorities only – such as things like exercise or meditation – and sometimes our family or friends have priorities that they want to make our priorities.

When your priorities aren’t shared by friends and family then you need to decide to be selfish. I’ve taught myself to become comfortable with others perceiving me as selfish. I’d far rather displease someone momentarily than let myself down and live with the consequences of not doing what I believe is a priority.

Sometimes I disappear with my laptop into the bush that surrounds my parents house, work from a café or out of a shared office space. That’s selfish too. And I’m totally okay with that.

Coaching others on what to expect

One of the biggest disservices we do to ourselves in business (and in life) is creating unrealistic expectations of ourselves. We expect to do it all and have it all – volunteering at the children’s school, being on the Parents & Citizens’ Committee, baking our own bread and running a hugely success, location independent business all of our own, all by ourselves. That’s a recipe for unhappiness.

I don’t want to ‘do it all’ or ‘have it all’. I’m looking for ‘good enough’, especially when my critical brain is working overtime to berate me for something not being suitably fabulous.

Sometimes things need to be postponed. Oftentimes things need to be delegated, especially in the domestic department. If you can’t afford a cleaner or personal chef (wouldn’t that be wonderful?), you can set expectations on your partner, children and other close family or friends to cook, shop, clean or pick up the children (though they can’t pick themselves up. Yet.)

And if I’m happy with ‘good enough’ from myself, then I’m happy with ‘good enough’ if my partner does a job to a standard that’s different to mine. Because otherwise I’m doing it. And I don’t want to.

Looking ahead

I’m not an ultra organised, Type A planner person. (That’s why I created the Non-Planner’s Business Plan). But I do look ahead. And my brain is always dreaming, scheming, marinating, considering and pontificating.

I know, as a small business owner, that if I only do what’s in front of me and don’t look ahead at what’s coming up, then I’m going to be very, very …. quiet. Especially with January just around the corner, which is typically my quietest time of the year.

So when time is really tight, I prefer to follow up with prospects, create new email opt-ins, write quotes and follow up with new people I’ve just met than to work on what’s right in front of me. Because it’s more important for my business in the long-term.

Learning to live with chaos

The wifi at my parents isn’t great. The best wifi is in the middle of the house, which is open plan. I can’t really hide away (although I can become a little more inconspicuous by working quietly without drawing attention to myself). There’s no quiet nook if I want to work with wifi.

So I’ve learnt how to work within chaos. Truth be told, it’s a skill I’ve cultivated since I had baby one and baby two in quick succession while working for myself.

Thriving in chaos is really useful for your attitude and perspective: you can’t rely on external circumstances so you need to cultivate your own purpose. This helps foster independence and positivity. After all, happiness that’s dependent on external circumstances isn’t very substantial.

The same goes in business: if I were to wait for “the perfect time” or “the perfect opportunity”, I’d be forever dreaming. The circumstances or opportunities are never perfect. The opportunities could always be better. There will always be someone else making more money, travelling more with far more children, or doing something that looks totally fun and enviable on Facebook. But there’s no such thing as perfect outside of Disney. I’m cultivating my skills in chaos. Because that makes me stronger, more resilient and, ultimately, happier in business.