Interruptions, the Great Enemy of Personal ProductivityAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“The effectiveness of work increases according to geometric progression if there are no interruptions.” ~ André Maurois
Interruptions are the number one public enemy in the field of personal productivity. If you don’t get things done on time and you need to work late, or even on weekends, it’s probably because there have been many interruptions at work. In other words, it’s not that you have that much to do, but that you’re not good at managing your attention.
It’s true that there are environments in which fighting against interruptions is harder. In most organizations, interruptions between partners get masked under terms such as “collaboration” or “camaraderie.” But let’s not fool ourselves, an interruption is an interruption, and if you stop doing your work for 20 minutes because someone passing by has decided to ask you or tell you something, it will be 20 minutes that you will need to regain. And since days always have the same 24 hours, you will have to steal some time from hobbies, family and friends to compensate for all that accumulation of interruptions.
In addition to the typical interruptions from your colleagues, are the interruptions caused by the simple fact of being always “connected”. The Internet and smartphones have created a culture of distraction from which it’s difficult to escape.
And then you have your own inner interruptions, those that your own mind produces because you don’t want to forget to do something, or because you have some problem at home which you haven’t yet clarified, or because of many other possible causes.
All these interruptions break an eight-hour working day in a multitude of mini-moments of work that, at the end of the day, don’t even add up to five hours. You work half an hour and then your friend comes and makes a joke. You work fifteen more minutes, and then you receive a call. Another fifteen minutes working and you can’t wait any longer, you have to stand up and go for a coffee… And so on for the rest of the day.
Obviously, interruptions greatly affect your efficiency and personal productivity. In order to be really productive you need longer periods of work without interruptions, where you can concentrate on what you are doing and flow. You need periods in which you don’t have to go from one task to the other and then go back to the first one.
Is this so difficult? I don’t think so. Organizations can establish standards where a part of the day without interruptions is respected. In addition, there are ways to fight against external interruptions. And there are techniques to better manage the inner ones. Also, you can adopt a personal management method like GTD, that frees your mind from the stress of having to constantly keep your attention on open loops.