Dealing with Interruptions

So as I said in my look back at 2008, throughout the year I kept a Daily Journal. The way it works is this. At the start of every day (after I’ve had breakfast and got ready, but before I leave the house) I take 5 minutes to sit down, think about what is the most important task I need to work on today and write it down. I then think about what one thing I could do today that would help me achieve a future goal. I write that down too. As I’m the sort of person who jumps out of bed with a million different ideas on his mind, this five minutes in a morning helps me slow down and stop myself from being “busy” working on the wrong things (i.e. anything but those important tasks I’ve written down!).

In the ten minutes it takes me to walk to the office from home, I’ve also had time to think about how I’m going to tackle that most important task, and that future goal.

At the end of every day, or sometimes the next morning, I then write down whether I got that important task completed, whether I worked towards that future goal, and if not on either count, the reasons why not.

Learning from your lessons

I also take a few moments to write down any lessons I’ve learnt (or re-learnt) during that day. This can be anything from “Never respond to an e-mail when you’re angry” to “Get to bed on time – working when tired isn’t much fun”. When looking back and reviewing those entries, if that same lesson appears two or three times in a month, you really start to laugh at yourself and realise how ludicrous it is that you’re making the same mistake again and again…

Back to those two tasks in my Daily Journal. Looking back into my 2008 Daily Journal entries, something becomes very apparent. On those days when I didn’t achieve my goals, the reasons for not doing so were more often than not listed as “interruptions”.

Surprised to be interrupted?

Well – it’s not like I could have expected to get a load of e-mails or two dozen ‘phone calls during a day, right?

Yeah right. There are interruptions to your working day, every day, without fail. But the question is… do I really need to answer that new e-mail right now? Do I really need to take that phone call immediately?

Of course the answer to both is a resounding no.

Therefore one thing I’m going to work on going forwards is focusing on the job at hand and ignoring those distractions when there’s something more important to hand.

Minimising disruptions

I’ve already turned off Microsoft Outlook’s new e-mail “beep” sound and icon (that’s Tools > Options > E-Mail Options > Advanced E-Mail Options), I’ve begun to tell the wonderful ladies who manage my telephones that I’m unavailable for x mins/hours and to take messages instead, and I’ve even – gasp – signed out of Skype and Live Messenger until important jobs are done.

Oh, and I’ve turned off the e-mail notifications on my Windows Mobile device as well. The GG will be especially happy about this, she can sit and watch TV with me for more than 30 seconds without the ‘phone buzzing…


Only time will tell but I’m guessing that if I stick to this new regime, my time is going to be even more productive!


  • Nick2009-02-06 19:28:39

    I think I'm getting better at prioritising. I used to jump on emails as soon as they arrived - I now try to finish what I'm doing. Looking to the future hopefully emails requesting work will be captured by CW or AT and I then I'll just monitor the ticket queue.Nick

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