I just came into my writing corner to write this blog because Krishnan is catching up on the news and I cannot focus if I were to sit there… at least if it was old style Doordarshan news, I might have had a chance to tune out but with every anchor getting more indignant than the other and every panel being bigger and more vocal, I can’t even hear myself think. Writing is a very contemplative activity for me and I cannot do it without silence. Actually all kinds of work needs silence …. a distracted plumber will probably leave behind a leaky pipe and a distracted CEO will probably hire the wrong candidate !
But it is a world of distractions that we live in. We have colleagues interrupting all the time or with cellphones, anyone can call you and interrupt while you are thinking or doing something important. When Krishnan and I do training interventions or even during our individual coaching sessions, an important topic that comes up every time is “how to handle interruptions or distractions”.
Here are the two ways of handling distractions that I use –
1. Spending a fixed amount of time on social media – it’s funny how Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp can keep you amused the whole day ! Every year we logout of Facebook and Whatsapp groups for a month in September and suddenly realise that we have read more books, I have written more blogs and because we travel, we have seen a different country and spent time talking to people in flesh and blood rather than just “chat” with them over ether.
For the rest of the months, I restrict seeing FB/Twitter to just about an hour in a day. Very tough, but it helps in getting other things done.
At work, emails are time guzzlers … and they are so comforting because they keep you looking busy as you stare at the computer screen and furiously type away replies to every email. Again, keep a limited time, maybe three times during the day to get to your emails. It then leaves a lot of time to actually do some “work”.
2. I have created a writing corner and retreat to that when I really have a lot to write. Like today – this is my 3rd blog 🙂 … only because I retreated to the writing corner. Mom doesn’t come in, Krishnan doesn’t say anything to me when I am in this corner – they answer the door or handle any other queries that come up. When I was working, my admin had clear instructions not to let anyone enter if I was having a 1:1 meeting for instance. I would put my cellphone on silent mode and face down so that all my attention was focussed on the individual who was sitting in front of me. I take notes and that’s not distracting to me but I mention it to my coachees or the person who is sitting in front of me. Coaching conversations and 1:1 conversations are intense and deep listening is not possible with constant interruptions.
If your office is an open plan office, use a “Do Not Disturb” flag as you get into some serious work that cannot be done with interruptions. Your colleagues will learn to respect that ! If your boss is the one interrupting – try explaining later why interruptions don’t work for you.
Please read this article as it suggests some more ways to handle distractions –
Why Steve Jobs took it slow
Happy “interruption free” weekend folks.