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Dealing With Interruptions

A few days ago, I found myself fussing internally because of a spate of interruptions. In reality, I’d allowed myself to be interrupted because I‘d been expecting two clients to provide feedback regarding a few time-sensitive matters.


Photo: Courtesy of Renwick Brutus

I'd anticipated that one client with whom I‘d exchanged email and telephone messages would respond with details pertaining to a matter we had been working on. There was a change at her employer and a pivotal deadline was quickly approaching for her to take decisive action.

Still, the back and forth with the calls and emails just happened to be at a time when I wanted to be focused on some other priorities. I was operating in that sweet spot where I was thinking and developing a program for a client organization. And then there was “beep," an interruption. I found myself thinking, "C'mon. I'm just getting going here." I caught myself spending way more time on these calls than I'd planned.


I'd been longing for uninterrupted time to capture my best ideas, and I'd just gotten it. Then, the interruptions occurred, and with them a feeling that I was being delayed from my most pressing activity. But I managed to relax and rid myself of runaway emotions. I seized the moment to practice a few key disciplines.


Prioritize Your Clients

I acknowledged that my clients' needs are important and often time-sensitive. So, I accepted the need to be flexible, allowed myself the freedom to make an exception from my pre-determined schedule, and responded to the important service needs of my clients.


After taking care of their needs, I calmed myself down and remembered to just relax and be thankful. After all, my phone was blowing up for good reason. These were longstanding, paying clients who were reaching out appropriately for the service I had promised.. And they were clients and friends I cared about deeply.

Yes, I had felt myself just being a little aggravated that they were calling at times that were not on my preferred timeline. But I had taken my phone off silence to receive these particular calls. So, I needed to keep it all in perspective and allow gratitude to be the primary sentiment. I needed to just accept that it was the universe doing its thing and leading me in very positive ways. I needed to let go of any illusions I may have had about being in control.


Recognize The Good Interruptions

You know what it's like sometimes. You find yourself in the flow of your work, sticking to your plan, and then life interrupts. That day I had planned to do quite a bit of writing. But I only got a couple of hours in that morning.

And I eventually came around to accept that it was okay. That's because quite often, things just happen the way they are supposed to. You could learn to accept this and be okay with these good interruptions, and give yourself some grace. Allow yourself to be flexible, as long as you don't fall into the trap of attending to continual distractions that are 'busy work' and not 'business."


Make room for serendipity. I'm sure you've had the experience of the chance encounter or the misfortune that delivered some amount of your good fortune. Remain open to the treasure that may lay buried within the interruption. You may even deliberately excavate it since you're already there.


Re-engage Your Plan

The most effective approach to minimize the adverse effects and cost of interruptions is to start every day with a detailed plan.


Ideally, that plan would distinguish between imperative and important activities and prioritize the items in each of those two categories. And it would provide prompts of affirmations and visual reminders to the attitudes, habits and motives that align with the action items for the day.


Be sure to include a few breaks for exercise, nutritionally dense but tasty meals, and pleasant interactions with colleagues and friends. And wrap it all up with ways to measure progress and celebrate a successful day.


Don’t seek perfection. Instead seek enjoyable effectiveness. Set clear goals, establish clear priorities and execute a plan that keeps you on track for achieving your most important goals. And when those interruptions occur, see them for what they are, opportunities to stay in touch with earlier commitments and to enjoy the journey of living a productive life.


Because I had laid out my detailed plan for the day, and the reminders for how I should think, act and eventually celebrate at the end of my day, I was able to step back from my activity of the moment and cherish the experience of attending to the needs of my clients. After all, that was what I had committed myself to do. It was consistent with my mission. And it allowed me to celebrate the journey and the result.


Renwick Brutus is the founder of Achievement Resource, LLC, a performance improvement consultancy that develops individuals and organizations to use more of their potential, create high-performance cultures, and improve performance and results. He may be reached at rbrutus@achievementresources.com.

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