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Workus Interruptus

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This article is not for the faint of heart.

Endless texts, tweets, emails, calls, chats, IMs, Facebook updates… What do all these things have in common? They’re all uncontrolled by you and letting others control your time. All buzzing and vibrating and stealing your attention from what you should be doing. Not to mention co-workers at your door. “Got a minute?” “What are you doing for lunch?” “You did hear about Nancy and Bob…?”

This article is about peak productivity. Turn off your smartphone, ignore email, dive in. There’s good stuff here.

But caution: this article is not for the faint of heart or politically correct.

Work interruptions
cost us 6 hours a day.

It’s amazing how many ways we can find to thwart productivity. We have excuses for every intrusion. Did you know that each interruption costs you 5-15 minutes to refocus? For IT folks, it’s worse. The phone rings and gets more attention than a car alarm. Even at home people run dripping out of the shower, jump up from the dinner table, and even interrupt sex (a disturbing disorder we call “coitus interruptus”) just to answer the phone.

I used to be stuck in this inferno (except for the last one). Here is how I resolved to fix my situation of endless interruptions:

Begin work early.
Very few reach me at this hour.

Ditch the office.
Sometimes I do not come in to the office at all and instead work from a “secret” location. One of my favorites is the coffee shop in the lobby of Sheraton Valley Forge where I plan. (There goes my secret.)

Shut off electronic notifications.
I just periodically check messages. As an exercise, count the number of times electronic beeps interrupt you in one day. Sorry, make that an hour.

Ignore “disasters.”
Nothing is as bad or as good as it initially appears. Not even love at first sight. The simple act of waiting resolves many so-called disasters.

Avoid meetingitis.
Do you really need that next meeting? Can it be done standing up? Can you skip the refreshments? Perhaps start at 4:45. Everyone just wants to go home so they’ll think twice before launching into an endless discussion. Besides, the people who will stay late are the ones you need.

Tame colleagues.
Is someone interrupting you every hour with an “idea” or “concern”? Ask him to gather notes and meet you at 4:45 PM the next day. You may find he doesn’t have much to share and has solved or forgotten his problems already.

Cut close ties with socialites.
You have a career to build. To move up the ladder of success, you need to tame socialization at work—especially with subordinates.

Create deliberate quiet time.
Quiet means quiet. Absolutely quiet. No interruptions whatsoever. This is not as easy as it sounds. It takes effort but it’s worth it. For example, I am editing this article at 6:15 AM Sunday next to a pond near my home. I live in Skippack, PA, by the way. Google it—it’s a cute town.

It’s amazing how little value
people place on their time.

Everyone’s heard the expression “time is money.” But how many really get it? Look at the long line of people squandering their lunch break to get their daily Venti-Soy-Quadruple-Shot-Latte-Half-Sweet-Non-Fat-Caramel-Macchiato-With-No-Foam. It’s amazing how Starbucks, like our healthcare system, has trained the masses to stand like sheep in a long line made longer by the comatose kid behind the counter we call a Barista and the ordering of abstruse drinks even a Harvard chemist couldn’t decipher by people who eventually reach the front of the line and somehow after 20 minutes of waiting still do not know what to order and rummage for their credit card buried in a two-gallon purse.

Phew.

Ranting makes me tired. I need a latte.

Peak productivity enemy number 1:

You know where I’m going here. Yes, I’m going to say it.

Your smartphone is enemy number one.

Listen to these words of hope: Not answering your phone, ignoring a text, or not looking at who is calling, will not end your career.

As an aside, did you know that Americans have spent over $24 billion in smartphone repairs over the past 7 years?* To put that in perspective, the U.S. currently allocates $3.1 billion in foreign aid to Israel and $2.3 billion to Afghanistan. If your smartphone was really smart, it would deploy a parachute as it fell out of your pocket and land safely so it doesn’t shatter when it hits the floor while you’re waiting at Starbucks for your latte.

Lately I’ve begun noticing men talking on the phone at urinals or conducting a conference call from the stall next to me. (Do women do this, too? Those of you who frequent female restrooms: I would like to hear from you.) Do they really think they’re saving time? How about the time spent cleaning up after an accident? And the repair or replacement cost if your phone falls in you know where? Sorry, I need to pee in peace.

And how about the loud dingbat cell phone talker? And the one with two cell phones? Airports should have special glass rooms for them. I much prefer to be sitting next to a quiet person who smokes like a fish. It’s a hazard when you can’t hear your flight being called over the gabbers and have to hurdle over people to catch it.

Okay, rant over. Thanks for hanging with me. If you read this far without reacting to an alert of some kind, congratulations. You’re doing better than most.

Now, let’s produce. Close your computer, turn off your smartphone notifications, and dive into this issue on productivity. ●

Don’t simplify. Over-simplify. My plan is to revolutionize planned giving. Contact me with your ideas and productivity tips at viken@plannedgiving.com. Originally printed in the Summer Issue of Planned Giving Tomorrow, now Giving Tomorrow™.

* Study by Square Trade

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