Okay, picture this. You’re working away on a report. You’ve really hit your stride and the words are flowing out of your fingertips. Suddenly, Susan sticks her head around the corner of your cube and says, “Hey, I need you to look at something for me.”
Maybe you really like Susan and you don’t mind at all. You scoot your chair over to her desk and help her out.
Maybe you are annoyed by Susan but you still help because you’re nice.
Maybe you are on a deadline and regardless of your feelings for Susan, you can’t stop to help her out, so you tell her that.
Regardless of how you react to Susan’s interruption, you’ve been interrupted. How hard is it to find where you left off and go back to what you were doing?
For some of us, it doesn’t take much. We read the last line, and BOOM—we’re back in.
For some of us, it takes a lot. We read the last line, which doesn’t help, so we read the last paragraph, then finally just re-read the whole damn document. FINALLY, we pick up the thread and get back into it.
And everyone else is somewhere in between.
Welcome to another component of hard-wiring. We talk about it as work style or the patience drive. The more patient, sequential and able to focus for a long time you are, the more it will cost you in productivity when you’re interrupted.
The thing about this particular part of your hard-wiring is the huge impact it has on everything else. Way too complicated to fully spell out in this short post. But another thing you can spot in those around you and make small adjustments to improve your interactions.
For example… you can always just ask permission to interrupt. While this doesn’t change the fact that you’re still interrupting at least briefly, it does give the other person a chance to say, “Hey can you just give me five minutes to finish this thought, and then I’ll be happy to help?” The less disruptive the interruption, the easier it is to go back to what you were working on.
On the other side of the coin, if you know it will cost you to be interrupted, be your own best advocate and ask for that five minutes when you need it.
As always, asking questions rather than making assumptions is your best strategy. Happy interrupting! Let us know how it goes out there. And as always, be kind and stay safe.