Tame the Interruption Beast

May 8


Dave Balch

Dave Balch

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... Arghhh. One of the biggest problems for ... business types is the ... stream of ... disrupt our train of thought. ... phone ... that need attent


Interruptions. Arghhh. One of the biggest problems for us
home-based business types is the relentless stream of things
that disrupt our train of thought. Unexpected phone calls,
children that need attention,Tame the Interruption Beast Articles the dog needs to go out, the
cat needs to come in, the sink is leaking, the car needs to
go to the shop... it never ends!

It is extremely frustrating to be in the middle of an
important letter or proposal, deep in thought, only to have
Aunt Bertha call to tell you about her bunions. What to do?
Aunt Bertha's bunions are important! (To her.) Some
interruptions can be eliminated, some can be controlled, and
some, well........ sorry, FedEx just got here and needed a
signature... where was I? Oh yes; and there are some
interruptions you've just got to live with.

Let's start with interruptions that can be eliminated:
phone calls. Turning the phone completely off is always an
option; let the answering machine get it. That's not always
practical, though; we do want to talk to our customers,
don't we? Well, I have two words for you: "Caller ID".
This is a wonderful service provided by the phone company
for a small monthly fee that, when the phone rings, displays
information about the caller on a little gizmo that you can
get at Radio Shack for under $20. (And, there's no
interruption for installation: they do it from their

Bingo! Now you know who's calling before you answer the
phone and you can make an intelligent decision whether or
not to answer it. If it's Aunt Bertha, let the machine get
it and call her back later when it's convenient for you.
You now have power over the phone, and it is good. The
interruption has been reduced to looking to see who it is.

Other interruptions can be controlled. For example, you
need a plumber to fix the sink and have a friend that wants
to see your hydrangeas. Schedule them both for the same
afternoon, i.e., group things into specific time slots if
possible and then plan activities for that time that are not
sensitive to interruptions.

Another consideration: don't schedule them for the time of
day that is your best "thinking" time. For example, I am at
my best in the morning so, when I have a choice, I avoid
scheduling things in the morning. That way, the
interruptions don't disturb me when I'm at my best.

Are kids or spouses walking in and asking you mundane
questions that could have waited? Have a signal that means
It could be as simple as closing your office door. Or, you
could turn on a specific light or lamp that would mean the
same thing. How about a "Do Not Disturb" door hanger
similar to those in a hotel? Make it a strict rule and
enforce it: they will get the idea. Eventually.

We have just scratched the surface, but this beast can be
tamed with a little thought and creativity.