Invest 30 minutes in the morning
Pick an activity that YOU want to do (painting a bedroom, re-potting your indoor house plants, baking cookies, peeling wallpaper in the ugly bathroom, figuring out how to hook up the new game console, cleaning out one closet, washing the camping equipment, reorganizing the cupboards, weeding the garden, watering the flowers, laundry) and involve your kids right with you.
Give assignments to everyone. Even the smallest child can help by dancing to music to entertain you while you read instructions for the IKEA bookcase you want assembled.
It is a slower process to do the needed activity with your kids. It’s even harder to distract them long enough to get it done without their “interference.”
You can circumvent the whole struggle by including them at the get-go. They love grown up activities, they love to be needed, and they can do more than you think (more slowly, with less proficiency). They will find themselves interested and learning while you get through this important task.
At a certain point, their enthusiasm or energy will fade (they are kids and care less about re-potting houseplants than you do). They will leave you to continue while they do something else.
And even if they don’t–if they need to shift activities and you must come with them, at least you will have invested 30 minutes into that project and you will have moved the chains another ten yards down the field.
If you invest 30 minutes right after breakfast, you prevent a build up of resentment, too. You won’t keep hoping for that “slip of time” when they are happy and you can get to work. Instead, you will set the agenda for the day by including everyone up front. You’ll get some of it done (or a lot).
Most importantly, you eliminate resentment (waiting for them to be happy so you can work; waiting for you to finish so they can have a playmate).
So what’s on the agenda today? What are you working on?