Steadfastly Guard Your Time in the New Year, No One Else Will

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fact: We live in an interruption-oriented society.

Indeed, the ability to sneak off, find quiet time, or simply rest is challenging in the age of mobile devices. Just think how the noise level of society in general has been increasing steadily for decades. For instance, try to read a magazine on your front porch in the late autumn, and invariably one or more of your neighbors will start toting an ear shattering leaf blower.

Think about your average work day. No doubt, your manager, colleagues, and clients have few qualms about dropping by, calling, emailing, text messaging, or instant messaging you all day long. And learning and development professionals are no different. In fact, although we crave the ability to work uninterrupted, we forget that we interrupt others with the same abandon that they interrupt us.

The Rising Tide

Research regarding interruptions in the workplace today paints a grim picture. For instance, a survey from U.S.-based technology research firm Basex revealed interruptions account for 28 percent of the typical career professionals’ workday. Worse, on average, employees typically get only 11 minutes to focus on any task before encountering another interruption. Thereafter, another 25 minutes on average are consumed before returning to the original task or project.


Other studies show that interruptions typically occur between every three and eight minutes. What’s more, once a worker is interrupted, there is almost 25 percent chance that resuming on the original task won’t occur until the following day.

It’s time to declare your independence. No one controls your schedule exactly like you do, not even an authoritarian boss. Most of the interruptions that plague you in the course of a day are, in part, your own doing.

To Allow or Not Allow

At some level, you allow most interruptions to happen, either because you think you have to be available 24/7 or you fear missing the one phone call or email message that will make or break your quarter (or your career). You fall into the trap of being too available, of checking messages too frequently, and of not relying on your natural ability to accomplish great things when you’re able to focus intently on the task at hand.

Here are some suggestions for taking charge of your personal environment, so that you can be your most productive self in those situations where concentration, intensity, and focus are essential.

  • Surround yourself with everything you need to fully engage in the process. This might involve assembling resources, people, and space, as well as ensuring that you have a quiet environment free of distractions.
  • Give yourself the hours or days you need to read, study, and absorb what’s occurring. Set aside adequate time to make decisions about how you’ll apply new ways of doing things and new technology to your career, business, or organization.
  • Go “cold turkey.” (Beware: This strategy is not recommended for most people!) Suspend whatever else you’re doing and engage in whatever it takes to incorporate a new way of doing things. This is enhanced by ensuring that you have no disturbances, bringing in outside experts, and assembling any other resources you need to succeed.
About the Author
Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC (aka "The Work-life Balance Expert"®) offers keynote presentations and workshops on a creating work-life balance, managing the pace with grace, and thriving in a hyper-accelerated world. He has spoken to Fortune 50 companies, such as Lockheed and IBM, as well as American Express, Westinghouse, America Online, and Wells Fargo. Jeff also is the author of Simpler Living, Breathing Space, and Dial it Down, Live it Up. His books have been published in 19 languages including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Turkish, and Russian. For more information visit
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