Out of Breath

“It takes 25 minutes to recover from a phone call or an e-mail, researchers have found, and yet the average person receives such an interruption every 11 minutes, Which means that we’re never caught up; we’re always out of breath, running behind.”     Pico Iyer, M.A.

Lying on the gym floor, I cannot catch my breath! In an aggressive play to secure a loose basketball, I land prostrate on the floor. Seconds later, two tumbling players from the opposing team land with all their weight on top of me. Thump! I cannot breathe! Moments later, which seems much longer, I am breathing again. Deep breaths. Whew! Despite my zealous plea to stay in the game, the coach sends me to the bench to regain my composure.

That gasping moment long ago was a rare event. In the rapid electronic world of today, such breathless equivalent is everywhere. No one needed to tell me that I was out of breath on the basketball court.  Yet, in this era we exhibit a lack of awareness to the interruptions that are relegating our hopes and goals to the bench. We are running on empty. Even distractions are plagued with distractions. Sometimes, it is hard to remember our purpose . . . our original thought or work. Does this sound familiar to you?

Writing requires discipline. I speak from experience. After writing and publishing over 100 weekly blogs, I have discovered what works for me and what does not work. Such discipline involves a regular commitment of concentrated time – time to think and time to pen my thoughts.

When in a flowing moment, the words I want to convey swiftly come to mind, often representing my best work. I have found that my most productive writing occurs after a period of concentrated effort. It starts slowly with a vague thought and a few written words. Momentum builds. Then, within a 45-minute period, I get more done than previous hours of work leading to this creative time.

It is absolutely essential that my productivity is not interrupted during that vital 45-minutes. Unfortunately, interruptions do occur, causing a slow, lengthy return to the task at hand.  Sadly, sometimes a special creative moment is lost forever. That is why I guard against interruptions – any electronic gadget that would demand my attention is totally silenced and any door that could bring disruption from my thought processes is closed.  How important is this non-distracting time?

Author Steve Pavlina, in his article Please Don’t Interrupt, points out what we lose in interruptions:

“When you interrupt someone, on average it takes them 23 minutes to get back to the original task, plus up to 30 minutes to return to the flow state so they can be fully productive again. Almost half of the time you interrupt someone, you’ll actually knock them off task completely, such that they won’t return to the original task right away when the interruption ends. You may think you’re only putting them on pause for a minute or two, but the actual break from the task that results from your interruption may be significantly longer.”

I can truthfully say that his comments accurately illustrate what I have experienced in my writing effort. When uninterrupted, I can accomplish optimum work. Efficiency is a key element in any endeavor. Using the least amount of time to do the most work. It is also about effectiveness. Doing my best work, regardless of the time investment.

Is this not what all of us want? A way to make our efforts achieve great results. What we need to form is a success habit that works.

Dedicate blocks of time on a regular basis executing tasks in areas that will bring superior results.  

In the corporate training program of Hackbarth Delivery Service (HDS), a standard statement I make to each team member is: “I will pay you to think.”  And this is true. Our company will pay our team members to think. But, to make this happen, individuals have to carve out the time for productive thought. And, as already stated, reserving time to effectively think in the rapid tempo of the 21stCentury requires steady discipline at the helm. In the orientation for new members of the HDS team, I advise them to begin their quest for meritorious thinking by carving out just one hour each week for protected quiet time.  Dedicate that valuable 60 minutes to creative thinking on solving the current biggest problem, or seeking discernment in taking advantage of the best opportunity. Write down ideas on a pad, or, record it in a computer document.  Success will follow.

How often do interruptions stagnate your progress in accomplishing all things important? When – if ever – do you get back to doing what is needed for your success? What are the barriers preventing progressive flow?

Interruptions are detours away from a successful life.

Consider these pertinent questions:

  • What are the common interruptions that I experience each day? Are they delaying the success I could achieve?
  • What goal could I accomplish this year if I reduced the level of interruptions hindering my progress?
  • When in any given day do I do my best work? How can I duplicate this daily?
  • How can I create an environment, free of distractions, that will allow me to be most productive?

This week, I will carve out one hour to think about how I can more effectively and efficiently do the work that will create the best opportunity for unfettered success.

Today. . .

I will catch my breath.

I will disrupt the interruptions.