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"Tame the Interruption Beast"

by Dave Balch, "The Stay-at-Home CEO"™

(c) 2000, A Few Good People, Inc.

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, 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 office!)  

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 “DO NOT BOTHER ME UNLESS SOMETHING IS BURNING OR BLEEDING”.   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.

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