Interruptions like robo-calls (is there anything more annoying and useless on the planet? Probably, but I can’t think what at the moment) are exactly the kind of thing that, if I don’t turn my phone off, can drive me clear off course. Someone dropping by to talk about business is fine if they keep to that, otherwise it’s like other interruptions, annoying and non-productive. And if you’ve got young children at home where you’re working, interruptions are guaranteed.
Interruptions break your concentration, making a train wreck out of your thinking and even your writing if your not careful. They make me want to tear my hair out. Bet you often feel the same.
Of course, a real truth about life in these times is interruptions are a fact of life. The trick, then, is to figure out how to deal with them so you’re not taken so far off course.
Start by protecting yourself. Turn off the your cell and your landline if you have one. Put a sign on your door asking not to be disturbed. Think about the last few times you were thrown off course by something you weren’t expecting. Spend a few minutes imagining what you might have done to avoid those altogether. The chances are you’ll find at least a couple of things you can do proactively to make it easier for you to stay focused.
How do you want to be when you are interrupted?
Humans come pre-wired to startle at loud noises and other interruptions. Being able to switch our attention from calm to danger rapidly is part of our survival mechanism and has literally kept us alive through most of our evolution. These days that startle response isn’t so helpful.
Fortunately we can decide to respond to it rather than just throwing up our hands in reaction and allowing ourselves to be taken off course. Here’s how:
- Decide now how you want to respond when interrupted. I want to notice the interruption but not be thrown by it into anger or other negative emotion. Instead I simply want to accept it, deal with what I need to deal with and get back to my writing.
- Figure out what you can do instead of over reacting. In my case I can stop, notice I’m angry or whatever high alert status I’ve gotten to, sit quietly and just take a couple of deep breaths.
- Next I take brief note of where I am in my writing and then I turn to handle the interruption itself.
This three step process of mine takes moments. For me it makes a world of difference. Because I’ve mentally book marked where I am in my writing, when I’ve dealt with the interruption, I’m able to get back on track pretty quickly.
Try my process then adjust it to meet your needs. Maybe instead of a couple of deep breaths you’ll want to stand up or just let go a great shout of anger before you move on. However you want to handle it, make sure it works for you so you can move quickly back to what you were doing.
Write well and often,