A situation I run into frequently, including right now, is being around people who would prefer that I not work all the time. They understand what I'm doing and are supportive of it, but they will make short term decisions to avoid me working. In other words, I'm visiting my family and if I were to ask, "Should I go get some work done or have fun with you?" the answer would always be fun.
This happens around friends when traveling sometimes, too. Maybe they came for vacation, but I travel so much that work has to be a regular part of my schedule, even when traveling. Whether with family or friends, it's a tricky balance. I'm not great at maintaining that balance, but I've been doing it for a few weeks, which has surfaced some thoughts on it.
One skill I've found to be really useful is to really be able to discriminate between things that must get done immediately and things that need to be done eventually, but not now. Right now we're moving Sett to a new server. I'm coordinating with Todd, and this is a high priority, so it has to be done now. Other things, like working on my habit book, can be delayed.
On the other end of things, I've been trying to evaluate family activities by a similar measure. Is this really quality time, or are we just sitting in the same room watching a movie? Is my participation central to this activity, or am I just another body in a room?
By focusing on the relative importance of activities and spending time saved on high priority must-do items, I've found that I can keep pushing things forward and have my absences barely be noticed.
Another technique I use is waking up early and immediately getting to work. I'm still in bed, but I've already done some important Sett stuff and I'm getting my daily writing out of the way. No one really knows whether I'm awake or not, and I haven't been swept up in everyone's plans, so it's a good time to get work done. Late at night is good, too, but I find it's better to just wake up a bit earlier and get things done.
I've also been trying to involve people in my work. I got my cousin to work on CruiseSheet, and several of my cousins do language tapes now while I do mine. Even having someone sit next to you and explaining what's going on to them can be interesting to them and give you a different perspective on your process.
Finally, at least for my current workload, I've found that whole days need to be blocked off as work days. I do this for maybe three days a week while visiting family. People revolt at the idea a little bit ("but you're on vacation!"), but if you explain that the only reason you can visit for so long is because you do block time off for work, they tend to understand.
One positive upside of this sort of arrangement is that the constraints on time can make you more productive per hour. I never ever browse stupid sites or get distracted, because I can easily contrast that time against time with my family. When I'm just sitting in my RV alone, it's a lot easier to get distracted.
It is possible, and even a positive thing, to work while spending time with others. It just takes some discipline, planning, good judgment, and a little bit of placating. But who ever said work was supposed to be easy?
Photo is the design on a bowl in the Asian wing of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts