I have a problem with interruptions as distractions. I spend a lot of time concentrating on writing and researching and concentration breaks are the worst thing for me. I rarely recover when it happens.
My primary source of interruptions was phone calls. I used to have many phone calls asking for assistance, advice and input until I realised I wasn’t doing real work. In fact, I spent most of my time doing someone elses work. Then I would spend more of my time doing my work. That’s wasn’t fair to me or my family.
My solution to this problem was simple but it took sometime to work it out. It’s really simple and anyone can do it but it takes learning a new skill.
Don’t answer the phone.
That’s it. No one expects you to answer the phone – it’s quite acceptable that you don’t. After all, you are busy and you might be on the phone to someone else or in a meeting. Pretty sure they will call back later if it’s important.
Now, disable your voice mail. If you can’t disable your voice mail, then stop listening to it. I’ve talked about this before – it’s an old technology that is no longer relevant. It’s the communication equivalent of an “internal memo” or a “fax”.
You can replace voice mail with email. Really – the word mail gives it away. Or a text message or messaging tool like MS Communicator or Apple Messages.
More importantly, people who leave voice mails will often transfer actions to your agenda without asking permission or getting your acceptance. It doesn’t take long for people know/learn/comprehend that you are hard to get hold of. And voice mails don’t seem to get a response. They will guess you are super-busy (people tend to think the best of you).
Now, here is the “trick” that makes this work. Answer your email and text messages. Be absolutely devoted to responding clearly, somewhat promptly. Take time to write longish emails if you must. Allocate fifteen minutes in every hour to email if you can work like that – that’s about the same time as you used spend on phone calls.
If you must talk, set times to do so – treat it like a meeting. By email, tell them you will “call at 2:00 today to discuss”. Take control of your time and make it deliberate. Set an agenda for the call.
Time is precious.
When the phone rings, just ignore it. Turn the volume to zero so you won’t hear.That will reduce the temptation. Break the habit of interrupting yourself. Don’t let other people steal your time.
Try it for two weeks and watch what happens to your productivity. Remember, people want to think the best of you and as long as you are delivering results, answering the phone is not important. Communication is what’s really important. You can do that on email, or text, or by scheduling a voice meeting (a phone call).
I’ve been using this technique for about four years and it’s been a wonderful thing. I can assure that I’m getting a lot more done, with a lot less stress.
And that’s what it’s all about. Take control of your time.
One final thing.
When I’m talking face to face with you and your mobile phone rings ? Don’t answer it. It’s mind bogglingly rude to just ignore the person in front of you to pay attention to someone else. That another case where you should not answer the phone.