I have three boys: ages 9, 5, and 2. One question people constantly ask me is, "How do you do all those projects with your little boys?" At first, I used to feel a little offended because the undertone seemed to be, "You must not take care of your kids," or, "You must ignore other responsibilities around the house." But, I don't think people understand that I only work for 15 minutes at a time in between errands, chores, and kid stuff. It takes me five times longer to do any project than if I didn't have kids, but I still get stuff slowly accomplished. (And I still avoid putting laundry away at all costs).
I've compiled a list of things that have helped me "find time" to complete projects:
1) Break each project down into small incremental steps that can be completed at different times throughout a day.
I wanted to build and complete some built-in shelves in my Bonus Room before I had company visit in March. So, that meant I really had to get to work in January and February. I created a break down with monthly goals, weekly goals, and daily goals to see how much work I really had to do in the amount of time I was allotting myself (most months aren't usually so intense).
This calendar was mostly a guideline. For January, I was actually able to stay on schedule. But, in February, the top portion of the shelves ended up taking me a lot more time than I had anticipated and I had to adjust my plans and expectations. No big deal. I find just having some sort of plan helps me get something done, even if it's not as much as I was hoping.
2) Figure out what time I have to do work and what kids will be around
Our schedule changes in seasons, but right now, I have a good chunk of time during my 2 year old's nap in the afternoon. After I read and do homework with my Kindergartener, I set him up with art supplies or an activity at the kitchen table and I go in and out of the garage doing small prep work or building or sanding or painting in between checking on him.
My kids also go to bed fairly early in the evening, so I usually have about an hour of uninterrupted work time at night. That's when I do some of the more dangerous cutting or assembling that takes a little brain power.
3) Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Not only do I break each project down into smaller steps, but I have to think ahead. If I want to start something on a certain day, I need to make sure that I buy wood and larger supplies a few days in advance on an evening when my husband can be home with the kids.
I know it sounds like a lot of time, but it's really only 5-15 minute increments. It's the planning that's important. Once I've finished one small step, I can get back to something else that needs to get done in my busy schedule.
3) Find ways to let my kids help -
My kids LOVE it when I ask for help. While they aren't tremendously skilled at this moment in time, they are almost always willing to sort things, hand me a tool, or use a sanding block. But, knowing that they are around my tools makes me extra cautious about leaving things out they might hurt themselves with. I always make sure to put tools away, disconnect my nail gun, unplug and lower the blade on my table saw, etc. Even if I just have to leave the room for a minute, I disconnect things since I never know if I'll get distracted or be needed somewhere else and not be able to return right away. I'd hate for their curiosity to put them in danger. I want to teach them and share this part of my life with them, but being safe and teaching safety is important.
Honestly, I rarely finish a project on my planned timeline. My entertainment center repurposed into a custom hutch was supposed to be my January project in 2014 and I didn't finish until the beginning of April. But, I did finish. I kept plugging away little by little and revising my goals. Things often take longer than you think they will. Unseen difficulties arise. Don't be discouraged if you don't think you'll ever finish. Just do something. (Sink in nails one day, fill the holes the next day, sand the holes the next day). It will eventually get done.
I think anyone can "make time" for what's important to them. It might not be every day. It might just be once a week or once a month. I find as long as I'm working towards something I feel productive, even if it's only in short spurts at a time.