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Dealing with Interruptions

A few weeks back when I posted the two “I hate email” and I love email” rants I was really having a difficult time with interruptions. In my world I have somehow become the “answer man” for countless projects, clients, and web sites.

Jason at 37signals finally broke the silence on their blog and posted a little bit of signal today. He posted about how interruptions are not collaboration.

I had never made the connection between “interruption” and “collaboration” but it is something I have been pondering for a long time now. I have somehow created a work environment around me that enables an amazing number of interruptions.

Some days it is so bad that I actually find I enjoy working weekends and nights, just so that I can work in peace and quiet.

I can actually accomplish something.

Weird how that happens, isn’t it? Too bad Jason doesn’t have a solution to the problem.

By Chris Tingom

Principal of Tornado Design, a Phoenix, AZ based web consultancy

4 replies on “Dealing with Interruptions”

You do though. In this post, and in a prior post.

“…somehow created a work environment around me that enables an amazing number of interruptions…

Interruptions only occur because you want them to, or because you allow them. Think about the one thing you really, really enjoy. The one thing that you let your mind get lost in to such a point that everything else in the world disappears. It doesnt matter if you’re alone, or in a room of 100 people with 150 telephones ringing — you’re in the zone. Athletes can do it in crowded stadiums, teachers can do it in rambunctious(?) classrooms. When I’m in my study at night, I’ve learned to block out all the noise my two kids make — save for anything that sounds truly urgent (like a glass hitting the floor followed by screaming). Plus, I know my wife is there to take care of matters I’m not specifically needed for.

You also had a post the other day regarding telling clients “no”. Good customer service, I believe, is setting some boundaries with your clients. In some cases that means you deny a request.

Here’s one thing I’ve just come to realize after being a parent for nearly 6 years. All adults that we deal with today were once children, who probably heard “no” several times a day, everyday from their parents. Telling them “no” now, isnt going to hurt them, and will probably make them a better client down the line — just like them hearing “no” from their parents so many years ago made them a better adult today.

Bottom line, you do what you want to do. If you dont want to be disrupted — hit the off button and say no.

Crap. I need to stop using blockquote.

Anyway, regarding the interruptions you cant put off — like meetings, or team collaborations. Our brains are amazing beasts. We take in mounds of information, even when we are alone, saying no and have all our devices turned off.

We see the play of light and shadows on the keyboard, we notice the fan lightly blowing the edge of the paper, we hear and assign a rhythm to the clicking of our keyboard, we recognize the pattern of our typing and know by feel when we’ve misstyped a word. All this input and more, and yet we’re still able to focus.

I would seem to think then that we willingly allow other distractions, maybe allow some unnecessary importance, to a meeting or Joe popping into your office to chat…

Maybe it’s training your brain to treat all distractions and input the same. A hierarchy of importance if you will.

I dont know. Just some thoughts, hope it made a little sense.

Hey Mark, I fixed the blockquote ;-).

I think you are right about training your brain to treat distractions a certain way. There’s got to be a way to treat a clients support emergency in such a way that I don’t get off track so often.

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