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Dan Markovitz

Self-interruptions are the sneaky, silent killer.

Here's the scenario: You're hunkered down, ready to do some real work, and then you remember, "Oh, I've got to send Sarah an email about XXX." Or you remember that you have to make a dinner reservation for next week." Etc. So you quickly go to Outlook to send the mail, or you jump online for JUST A SECOND, and before you know it, you've disappeared down the electronic rabbit hole. For 45 minutes.

The truth is, no one can resist the lure of the web or unread emails. Despite your best intentions, you get pulled away from your truly important work.

Here's the solution: keep a pad of paper next to your computer as you're working. When you think of something that you have to do (make a phone call, send an email, get some information on a prospect, etc.), scribble a note to yourself on the pad and KEEP WORKING. Don't break your momentum. When you're done with that task or project, then you can follow up on the items on your note pad.

This simple technique reduces the self-interruptions that most assuredly contribute to your crazy-busy life.


let me add one more to the list.

I call it my "COME HELL OR HIGH WATER" list. It's the list of things I HAVE to get done today. They are the most important things to my success.

It is a daily list of usually no more than 6 or 7 things, that have to get done before the day is out. I can't quit before they are done, no matter how late.

Having this list in front of me, forces me to prioritize. It keeps me from getting sucked into email, doing busy work etc.

Knowing what is important to success then building a daily MUST do list NOT a to do list makes a huge difference.

Dan Waldschmidt

I have what I call my MINIMUM VIABLE EFFORT...

I can not go to sleep until at least a certain number of things have been accomplished. Like Keenan having the list and sticking to the plan enables me to stay at peak performance on a regular basis.

There are days when the task list is light and quite a few others when the duties of the day demand uninterrupted focus.


Tibor Shanto

Become a better fireman

Master and schedule for the known-unknown. Since we are in sales customers will have challenges and fires that need to be put out. Learn how much of your time each week is consumed by "client emergencies, fire fighting, etc." Once you know, build that into your calendar, otherwise you will end up not doing something else that you had planned. If it is 45 minutes a day, then set aside 45 minutes for that just as you would e-mail, prospecting... While you may not know what the "emergency" is – unknown – you know from experience that it will come – known. So if a REAL emergency comes during you r prospecting time, and it takes a half hour, you have banked that time for that day, you can "put out the fire" and still have time to complete your prsoecting.



At the end of my day I write down in a notebook that stays on my desk, the 3-4 things that are the super critical to-do's for the next day. When I walk in the next morning, I do those items in my book FIRST. It also helps to have them off my brain as I close up the "work" day.

Leisa Mohler-Erickson

Scheduling is key I agree. So, as the alarm sounds for my "window" to prospect, I turn the ringer off on my phones, shut down Outlook, and close all unrelated windows/tabs on my computer. Otherwise, within minutes, I am derailed.

Marcia Ridgeway

Something that I learned from working with an International Manufacturer is that if you put your hand on something on your desk, take care of it right then and file it. I've been working with an associate on office organization and not to her discredit, but I was amazed at how many times she had to go through at least 3 piles to find what she was looking for. Everytime she went through each pile she would find something that needed immediate attention and then she would do what? Create another pile. She was amazed at how efficient she could be. This is a biggie for me and very effective if followed...

Jerry Kennedy

I'm with Dan...an analog notebook rules in the digital age! I have a great little green notebook that goes with me wherever I do so that I can write down those thoughts/tasks/reminders that would otherwise derail me. Thanks for the reminders, Jill!

Mike Sweeney

Jill I appreciate you posting the answers to my questions!

Although I'm setting time limits for a particular task (#2 above), sometimes they can't be finished in one fell swoop. So another thing I've been trying for complex projects (since I work from home) is to set small deadlines throughout the day.

You know the feeling: An entire day of working at home stretches before you, and it feels like you've got all the time in the world... why not... do a hundred million other things besides the work you must do?

So I'm trying to _avoid procrastination_ by setting mini deadlines. For example: I must finish revising a document by 10am, so I can be on a conference call by 11, so I can finish work today by 2pm. This helps to break up the day and instill urgency in my tasks.

Nancy Bleeke

Everyone is crazy-buys these days...and many decide that multi-tasking is the answer!

But... Researchers at the University of California at Irvine monitored interruptions among office workers; they found that workers took an average of TWENTY-FIVE minutes to recover and return to their original task after an interruption such as a phone call or answering e-mails.

I've been there! Lots of time wasted because I allow myself to be interrupted.

My tip is painful...yet very effective to find out your personal time wasters so you can remove them.

For 72 hours track how you spend your time (10 minute increments work well) - don't shortcut the 3 days because it is easy to explain away a day or two of disruptions. To look for patterns a whole week is even better.

Then when you can analyze where your time really goes - you can determine which of the great tips Jill and all the commenters suggest will work for you.

trish bertuzzi

I love this post and these suggestions! Let me add one more... set your email to send and receive once an hour. I love Jill's idea of just checking email twice a day but if you can't do that then once an hour truly gives you big chunks of uninterrupted time to get work done.

Nancy Bleeke

To add to my earlier comment, a post that includes more detail about the 'myth' of multi-tasking:


Whiteboard in my home office or on my laptop. Quickly park all the important things that pop up. Use red marker/font for asap, green for "today", and black for rest. As I get breaks, I go back and categorize "C" for Computer handled items, "T" for Telephone calls, and "D" for something I have to drive to. Sometimes I can take care of a green or black item quickly while I'm handling a red item because I'm already on the computer/phone or out.

Audrey Thomas

I recommend that all notification sounds/symbols get shut off. That puts you in control of your email vs. it interrupting your focus every few minutes. As a productivity consultant I love working with sales people because they understand the connection between time well spent and higher earnings. With that said, though, we all struggled with interruptions and too much e-mail so control it as much as possible.

I also shut off the automatic send/receive setting and do it manually when I check my emails 2-3x each day. This helps tremendously!

Thanks for this post - loved it!

anne miller

A wise mentor years ago told me that when things are crazy - stop! And ask yourself what is the best use of my time right this second to achieve whatever goal I have set for myself. Then drop what you are doing and get working on that item. Also, ever notice how we always manage to get the important things done when we have to go on vacation on Saturday? I tell my seminr attendees to live every day as if you were going on vacation on Saturday. It really works!

Mark McClure

Unless you can 'train' a boss to send the urgent stuff via voice mail or text... not checking email 1st thing can sometimes be a real PITA. Working solo, it's a lot easier to set and stick to your own guidelines.

Timed bursts also works surprisingly well for me. That is, set a timer to sound (or quietly vibrate)at 25 min intervals. Work, then take a 5 min break - get up, move around.
I think this helps concentration 'spike' upwards in the last 10 mins or so because the brain 'knows' a rest is coming.

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