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Entries in interruptions (19)


Creating Your Own Circus Chaos

While you normally think of interruptions being created by others and brought to bear on your circus, don't miss those "changes of direction" that are often caused by your own inability to plan or focus properly. Some examples include:

  • Leaving "e mail notification" turned on for your email program. Each time the indicator pops up telling you that you have a message, you are distracted. It's just human nature to say, "I wonder who is e mailing me?" The same is true for notifications on a phone or tablet.
  • Not managing your sleep patterns, exercise or food intake. If you are ready to crawl on your desk at 2 PM and take a nap, maybe it's time to start an exercise program that will help you sustain your energy throughout the day. Or perhaps you need to explore ways to get a better night's sleep-or watch what you eat at lunch that may be making you sleepy.
  • Beginning-but not ending-an intense discussion with your spouse, children, or co-worker. If you have something serious to discuss, choose a time that you can prudently work through the issue. Leaving "loose ends" in discussions will weigh heavily on you in those moments at work when you should be focusing on other tasks.

Most importantly, be the ringmaster. As much as it's possible, take control of your time, energy and actions... or someone else certainly will.


What's A TRUE Interruption?

While in a corporate training program, I was working through a section of the Juggling Elephants program that deals with "focusing on your most important acts in your lineup." One of the participants said, "You know, there really aren't many TRUE interruptions." I was curious about their response and asked them to explain.

They said that most individuals consider anything that stops them from completing their current task as an interruption. In reality, many of the things that we consider interruptions are actually part of our job responsibilities. A phone call may be viewed as an interruption, but it is actually within our job expectations to answer it and deal with the need on the other end of the line if it's about work. Someone stopping by our office to ask us something related to work may break our concentration on a high mental task, but it's not truly an interruption.

The person was right. It would be futile to try and eliminate all interruptions-most of us would have to quit our job. Our goal, instead, should be to figure out ways to MANAGE those interruptions that are work-related and MINIMIZE those interruptions that are not work-related.


To teach the people in your organization how to better manage the TRUE interruptions, consider bringing the message of Juggling Elephants to a future event. Click here to learn more.


Two Acts In The Same Ring At The Same Time

It's happened at least two times in the past month. I return a call to someone and before I even get to hello, they abruptly say, "I can't talk right now. I'm in a meeting." The visual I get is hilarious. First, the person answering their phone while in a meeting has just disrupted the flow of the meeting-or at least distracted the individuals around them. Secondly, they have just created a less than professional situation between themselves and the person calling. I also see this same behavior while conducting some presentations.

In an actual circus you can imagine how confusing it would be if, while an act was being performed, another act barged into the same ring. No one is pleased with the chaos or confusion created by the incident.

I know there are cases of personal emergency where one needs to be readily available, but that's the purpose of Caller ID. If it's important, step out of the room. Ultimately, for the benefit of those in the meeting and as a courtesy to the person calling, maybe it's best to wait until the current act is finished before tryng to start another one in the same ring.


Why not schedule a Juggling Elephants program for the people in your organization so they can see the fallacy of trying to get it all done? Click here to learn more.


Stop Interrupting My Performance!

A common question we get in training programs is "How do I get other people to stop interrupting me?" If the performers in your circus are breaking up your acts on a regular basis, try these strategies to help stay focused:

  • Clarify the interruptions. When someone says, "Do you have a minute?" give them a specified amount of time that you do have, or say "Not right now. Let's set up a time later to give it the attention your issue deserves." Then, set up a time to meet with them that works better in YOUR lineup. This does not apply in cases of emergency, of course.

  • Determine the reasons for the interruptions. Is it because they have incomplete information? Lack of knowledge about processes/procedures? Boredom/Procrastination on their part OR yours?

  • Be less available/Have something else to do. If they are physically in front of you, use body language to signal that you need to end the conversation. Give a point in time when you can assist them (after I finish this report). Don't respond immediately to e mail (unless required by your supervisor or work team). That's a clear signal that you are fully available.

Remember, you're the Ringmaster of your circus. You have to keep the focus on the right act in the right ring at the right moment.


The Value of Uninterrupted Time

How often are you interrupted? Whether you work in an office, in the home or in a factory; try a little experiment and see just how many minutes it takes before you hear a bell, beep, buzz or "Do you have just a minute?" For the average person, that time is about 5-15 minutes. That is a lot of interruptions in a day's time. How are you expected to focus and stay on task? How are you expected to have deep thoughts and meditate on the important? The fact is if you are so use to being interrupted, you may have a hard time focusing on a given task for very long because you mind becomes "wired" towards jumping from thing to thing.

Find some time where you can just think. Shut off the interruptions. Get away from the noise and concentrate. You might ask, "What do I need to think about?" Consider the following ideas:

  • What are the most important things that I need to accomplish today that would have the greatest impact in my work, relationships and self rings? When am I going to get them done? How will I get them done?

  • Brainstorm a specific project and break it down into it's individual parts

  • What one key thing did I learn about today? Write it down in a journal or blog about it

  • What are my goals? What one or two things would I like to accomplish today, this week, this month, this year, in my lifetime? Write them down and then determine how and by when you will accomplish them

  • Ponder spiritual matters

  • Consider a relationship that is important to you. What does that relationship mean to you? What are the one or two things that you could do to build that relationship?

There are many more things that you could think about. This list is just intended to get your mind going. And that is exactly the point – Get your mind going. Get out of the shallow, reactive, "how am I going to quickly reply" mode and into the mode of focused, intentional, deep thinking – at least occasionally. The quality of your work and life will increase as a result.