Reduce interruptions with an interruptions journal

Interruptions are so frustrating. They hijack your time and your attention, and they end up putting you under pressure to meet deadlines for other stuff you intended to get done.

That is, unless you didn’t have any deadlines.

In which case, your life is a continuous stream of interruptions and missed (non-existent) deadlines.

So, how do you shut down those interruptions? And how do you actually achieve some of the things you set out to achieve?

Before you block out some time

Yeah, everyone says about how important it is to block out some time to do stuff.

Monday, from 9 till 11 am is writing time. Tuesdays are for client meetings. And so on.

But this isn’t going to work unless you take two more steps. One is tactical, but the other is strategic. Let me explain.

Don’t turn off notifications

You and I know how many interruptions happen just from our mobile notifications. In fact, you may be getting notifications on your mobile and on your laptop for the very same alert. For instance, an email notification.

And then you might be living out of your inbox all day every day anyway. So, what are the chances of you missing that exciting new unread email with a compelling subject line?

Yes, you should turn off notifications, but not yet.

Here’s why:

Curiosity is going to kill you

You know that having to deal with blank page syndrome means you’re going to get stuck, and you’re just going to be itching to check that email that’s just come in, or look at that social media feed.

So, turning off notifications isn’t yet the silver bullet, because you either won’t start it, or you won’t keep with it.

Instead, here’s the strategic way to set up your interruption-free week.

Define your purpose.

Not your goal for the week. Not your agenda. But your great big purpose; even your purpose in life. The reason for this is that instant gratification is going to scream out for your attention. An ability to see whether that interruption is going to fit into your big picture.

Set a goal

One, very specific mini-project that would take you 1% towards your goal. (1% isn’t much, but it’s infinitely more than 0%, which is what happens when your life is driven by interruptions).

Turn off notifications

Better still, turn off notifications on your laptop, and move your mobile to somewhere where you can’t easily reach it or even hear it.

Keep an interruptions journal

Seriously? Yes. This is a very simple way of keeping track fo what you’ve done and what you’ve avoided doing, due to some far more interesting interruption.

You may be very shocked not so much at the nature of the interruption, but at the length of time where it has thrown you off course.

Group your interruptions

Now that you have a journal indicating the nature of the interruption and how long it threw you off course, you can work out a way to fence them in.

This may be turning off notifications, or it might be telling someone: “I want to respect your time, so let’s not have this discussion right now.”

The aim here is to cut your interruptions by just 1%, and then to tie in your activity to your ultimate purpose.

Think of yourself as a ship that is sailing off course when an interruption happens.

The aim isn’t to go cold turkey with all interruptions. Instead, the aim here is to give you a realistic awareness of the interruptions you consent to, and then get back on course.

Anthony English