Pardon the interruption

14May10

I’ve been feeling a bit stressed-out at work lately. I’ve been assigned to several big projects, and I’ve been struggling to make a dent in any of them.

One of my primary frustrations has been the number of interruptions I field every day.

At the most, I get 15 minutes per hour of quiet, uninterrupted time. Sometimes the interruption comes from a visitor. Other times I’m distracted by a conversation nearby. Whatever the cause, I find myself constantly losing my train of thought.

A colleague was sharing a similar complaint today. “I feel like I can’t get anything done,” she said. “I have so much work that I never feel like I can catch up. There just aren’t enough hours in my day.” I nodded patiently as she stood at my cubicle wall for almost 10 minutes. Then, like a locust of workplace misery, she moved down the hall to share her woes with someone else. “Well, if only you’d stop talking and actually work, you’d get a lot more done,” I thought to myself.

Almost instantly, a little light went on. I realized I was doing the same thing, only with interruptions: For every person who stops by, I’m probably interrupting myself at least three times. How’s the euro doing today? Do I have any new emails? What was that thing I wanted to buy? What’s up next in my Netflix queue? What’s for lunch in the cafeteria? My own internal dialog is my worst foe.

Curious to quantify my personal observation, I researched the topic a bit. Guess what? Most people interrupt themselves about 44% of the time. Yup, that’s right: Almost half of my ADD is my own fault.

I have a little sign that says, “Hot project! No interruptions, please.” Maybe I should be turning the sign toward myself, instead of outward for my colleagues.



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