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Archive for August, 2009


Allowing Interruptions

I was teaching a class the other day and an interesting debate occurred.  When I was talking about interruptions and having control over when to allow them or not, it became very apparent that a few of the participants felt that if the phone rang or an email popped up, they had to stop what they were doing and allow the interruption.  When I asked why, the response was “because it might be urgent”. 

Let’s assume a few things here:

  1. The person sending you an email or calling you is not in the cubicle next to yours.  Therefore, they have no idea if you are sitting at your desk or not. 
  2. It’s not policy in your organization to answer all calls and respond to all emails as soon as they are received.
  3. You are not sitting at a customer service counter.

So basically, you’re in your office or cubicle diligently working away.  The task you are working on requires your attention and if you kept at it, you would be done in 30 minutes or less.  What’s more productive?  Finishing your task, or allowing the interruption?  Well, let’s see…

 A study was performed at two West Coast high-tech firms where cubicle dwellers were observed in the chaos of modern office life.  The study included more than 1,000 hours of observation to note how many times the employees were interrupted and how long each employee was able to work on any individual task.  Here’s what they found: 

  1. Each employee spent only 11 minutes on any given project before being interrupted and whisked off to do something else.
  2. Even worse, each 11 minute project was itself fragmented into even shorter 3 minute tasks, like answering e-mail, answering the phone or reading a web page.
  3. Each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take, on average, 25 minutes to return to that task.
  4. Even worse, when the interruption was over, the office workers appeared to literally forget what task they were originally working on.

The biggest problem with interruptions is not really the interruption at all.  It’s the havoc they wreak on our short term memory – hence “What the heck was I working on?”

So the next time you’re focused and working on a task and an email pops up or the phone rings ask yourself:  How much more time do I need to finish the task at hand before allowing an interruption?”  If its 30 minutes or less, don’t allow the interruption, finish your task and see how great you feel.

Oh, one more interesting observation in this study – only 1% of the interruptions were actual emergencies.

Make it a productive day!



Let’s talk about the “granddaddy of all productivity killers” – procrastination.  It’s unrealistic to set a goal to completely eliminate procrastination, but we can set a realistic goal to try to eliminate some of our procrastination.  As you continue reading my blogs, you’ll soon recognize a pattern – I like to talk about what I consider to be rational approaches to improving focus, productivity and organization.  So let’s rationally approach this topic.

There’s quite a bit of misunderstanding when it comes to procrastination.  For one thing, when you procrastinate it doesn’t mean you’re lazy.  You’re just avoiding doing something in the delusion that this afternoon or tomorrow you’ll have more time,  you’ll know more or you’ll have more help.  So when you excessively check email, hang out by the water cooler or surf the internet, ask yourself why and what are you really avoiding.

Here are some helpful hints if you struggle with procrastination:

1.  When in doubt, seek clarity.  Vague directions and ambiguous expectations often prevent you from moving forward.

2. If you find a job too difficult, too unpleasant or just too boring, tackle it first thing in the morning.  Tell yourself you’ll just work on it for 20 minutes, at the end of 20 minutes, make the decision whether to continue or stop.  Once you’re involved, it’s easier to keep going.

3. If the project or task seems too large then break it down into individual tasks and tackle each one separately.

Try one of these suggestions if you find that you tend to procrastinate and let me know how it worked.  Remember, we can’t eliminate procrastination all together, but we can minimize it.

Good Luck!

Taken from the GO System, written by Chris Crouch


Just Do It!

I was going over some notes this past weekend and came across a quote from the book “Following Through” by Steve Levinson.

“Nothing is as fatiguing as the continued hanging on of an uncompleted task”.

Start off your week on a good note and tackle that one task that you’ve been putting off and see how good it feels!

Good luck and have a productive week!


Back to School

Well, the summer is almost over and those school bells are going to start ringing!

I know, where did the summer go?  Back to school already?  Say good bye to the lazy mornings and carefree schedule. 

It’s always hard getting back into the school routine and if you start off the school year unorganized, it only gets worse.  Start off right by setting up some simple systems to make getting back into the routine easier on everyone.

Check this simple list each night before going to bed and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how smooth the morning will go: 

  1. Have clothes picked out for the next day.  If your children wear uniforms, make sure they are clean and ready to go.
  2. Make sure all back packs are ready and by the door before the kids go to bed.
  3. Make lunches and have snacks packed.
  4. If your kids play sports, have all sporting equipment gathered and ready for practice and/or games.
  5. Sign all paperwork and write checks for school activities.
  6. Check the calendar for any special events occurring the next day.
  7. Set the breakfast table.

The smoother the morning goes, the better your children will do at school.  Start them off right each morning by having an organized, structured morning.  Not only will they have a better day, you will too!

Help your children have a successful year by setting up a stress free routine.  The more organized you are, the more organized your children will be!

Working smarter doesn’t just apply at the office!