Until we magically figure out how to prevent interruptions, and appropriate ways to ask the person interrupting us to talk to us later, here’s an easier, practical solution. Continue working on how to sequester yourself when you need to for intensive work and to set limits on your availability. But while that difficult work goes on, try this and the interruptions will be far less frustrating.
Interruptions: Seem to Happen RIGHT When You’re in the Middle of Something
- But are you really going to stop your aging parent from calling you?
- Or tell your puppy who has to go outside to “Wait a minute.”
- Suggest your troubled employee come back later?
- Will you not respond to the regular, longtime, very committed client who tells you she needs you to look at something right away?
That’s what I thought. Sometimes, yes. Many times, “No,” for all kinds of reasons. [That’s another post.]
If another person (or animal) interrupts you (unless the person is in tears):
- Acknowledge the person. Then very quickly, say something like this: “I need to jot down where I was; can you hold on a second, so I can fully listen to you?”
- Take the 15 seconds or so you’ve just been given (guilt-free) to mark where you were;
- Write down the very next step you were going to take before you were interrupted;
- And then turn back to the conversation.
Why This Works
Few people will be upset because you are explaining that if you can have 15 seconds, you will be better able to listen. Who doesn’t want to know they’ll be heard?
Bookmarking mentally closes the door on where you were temporarily. This helps you to clear your mind for the conversation you’re about to have. Contrast that with what you might usually do: try to listen, forget about the task, and yet try to remember how to get back to where you were. All at once in your mind.
And for you, the bookmark will get you back to where you were and quickly. Especially when some conversations can take your mind way off track.
The Magical Piece
…. is that you’re writing down the very next step, BEFORE you turn away from the task.
You won’t be stalled wondering what’s next. Or beating yourself up for forgetting what had been a great idea, before the interruption. And this stalled, vague thinking? A set up to get pulled off track AGAIN. And then think of how you’d feel at the end of your day, interrupted by someone else, and then pulled off track by yourself. Productive and happy? Probably not.
That specific step gives you easy, forward motion.
Put another way if you like metaphors …. When you return, you’ll already have air in the hot air balloon already or gas in the car. You’ll instantly be ready to take off out of the starting gate. You’re “into it” far more quickly than if you had to remember what was next. And some of us, once taken off track, have a really hard time with the memory piece if it’s not written down.
If this is a problem you deal with, or the bigger issue of managing and organizing your days so you feel good and energized and productive, let me know. Sue@CoachSueWest.com or 603.554.1948 or contact me through my social media sites.