I Just Work Here

Calling time out on work interruptions, distractions

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Julie Morgenstern, author of "Never Check E-mail in the Morning," said: "It's important to recognize how much is coming from outside and how much is self-interruption. I think we self-interrupt just as much as we're interrupted by others."

She called email "an interruption chute" on which you can easily close the lid. By not letting yourself check email until 10 a.m., you can secure a good hour or more to focus on bigger things.

"The temptation is, 'Let me take care of all the little things people need from me, and then I can relax and focus,'" Morgenstern said. "That's kind of misguided, because the little things never stop."

She recommends flipping that plan — tackle the big tasks first and then pay attention to the ticky-tack stuff.

Morgenstern and Davidson agree that if you introduce a no-interruption policy for a couple hours a day, your bosses and co-workers will not only understand but also might follow suit.

"Everyone is dealing with the same problem," Morgenstern said. "You could ostensibly have a department meeting, a team meeting, a meeting with your boss and talk about how you need to balance responsiveness with individual work streams. Say, 'Can we agree that generally speaking the mornings are for uninterrupted work, unless it's a real emergency?'"

I can say from personal experience that the two times in my life I've focused solely on work have been fabulously successful. (This column is not the product of one of those times.)

But while we face a blinding array of potential distractions, it's bound to get worse as technology grows and we start getting Googles implanted in our bionic eyes.

To that end, Davidson points out the importance of training yourself now to shut down interruptions.

"Every day for the rest of our professional lives, the pace of society, the pace of business and the pace of communication are going to speed up," he said. "We've got to put our stake in the ground now and say, 'I've got to establish some personal discipline here, I've got to carve out some breathing space.'"

Otherwise our attention will be constantly fragmented, and we'll be unable to complete our … to finish our … ummmm …
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