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Interruptions are Concentration Killers

Our lives are finite and we can only cram in so much information within a given period of time.

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Much of the work that you do requires concentration, often deep concentration. Yet, we live in an age when interruptions are the norm. In computer science, an interruption is a signal to a computing device that halts the execution of a program in progress so that some other action can proceed. In electrical engineering, an interruption comes in the form of a circuit that conveys a signal that stops the execution of a running program.

An interruption is a break in the action and is derived from the Latin words inter, which is to go between, and ruptus, which is to break off. Hence, an interruption can be described as something that comes between entities and separates them, such as you and the task you’re attempting to complete! Curiously, ruptus is related to the word rupture, which in biology is defined as a tearing apart of tissue; in politics, a breach of the peace; or in everyday affairs, a state of being broken apart.

Interruptions Impede Productivity

For career professionals seeking to be highly productive, interruptions represent a “breaking apart” of their ability to stay focused and strive for completion of the task at hand. In many work environments today — the traditional office as well as in mobile settings — each of us are prone to too many interruptions to even approach our potential level of productivity. Why? We are subjected to more potential interruptions than any previous workforce since homo erectus emerged from caves.

Unprecedented challenges call for novel solutions. It is not enough to turn your cell phone ringer or vibrator off. It is insufficient to believe that merely closing your office door will safeguard you from intruders. It is folly to believe that tomorrow is somehow going to be better than today if we don’t take a certain number of measures that guarantee we can work for 30, 60, or 90 minutes undisturbed when we need to.

Many years ago I met with the CEO of the Planning Research Corporation (PRC) in his office on the top floor of a building on K Street in Washington D.C. From this vantage point, he was able to look out of large picture windows in three directions, including to the west for dozens of miles into Virginia.

His office, the foyer leading into it, the receptionist’s area prior to that, the hallway leading to that, and the entire floor was notably more quiet than any of the floors under it. Like so many other top executives, he knew the importance of being able to marinade in his own thoughts.

The Quiet to Reflect

Those reaching the top rungs of organizations and who aspire to high achievement, instinctively understand the importance of safeguarding their environment. They understand the value of being able to reflect upon the challenges before them, to utilize the full measure of their cerebral capabilities, and craft a plan or devise a solution to meet that challenge.

In our own lives and careers, sometimes we don’t have the choice of working on a quiet floor with barriers surrounding our work space that ensure the quiet we need to concentrate on the challenges before us. We do, however, have options regardless of our working environment that can increase the probability we will have vital stretches throughout the day and the week, where we are free of disturbances and can safely predict that interruptions will not take us off course.

Most career professionals, throughout the week, have the some opportunity to take command of their immediate environment through a variety of procedures that are quite well known but unfortunately not put into practice as often as one might do so.

Interruption-Proof Your Environment

In my book Breathing Space, I offer some suggestions for safeguarding your working environment and minimizing interruptions:

* Surround yourself with everything you need to fully engage in the change process, which also 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 is occurring, and 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,” which is not recommended for most people! Suspend what ever 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’ll have no disturbances, bringing in outside experts, and assembling any other resources you need to succeed.

Life will come at us ever-faster as our technology and mobile devices connect us with more and more people, and information sources around the world. We have to establish effective habits and procedures to buttress ourselves against what we know is coming: more information, more communication, more to sift through, more to learn, and more to respond to.

Only So Much

Our work week and our lives are finite. We can only cram in so much information within a given period of time. The ability to understand and absorb what we need to, and keep at bay all the extraneous information that competes for our attention is a skill which must be developed, honed, and refined now. It won’t be any easier later.

The sooner we recognize that our interruption-based society is here to stay, at least for a while, the sooner we can embrace and securely put into place those measures that will ensure that we can be at our best for today and for the long run.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



 
 
 

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Politics

Fracturing Along Fault Lines

The panoply of liberal and Leftist policies are harmful to society

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Biden and company want to contort the right to vote, endlessly fund Ukraine, kowtow to Middle East terrorists, pack the Supreme Court, end the filibuster, disband the electoral college, treat January 6th protestors like insurrectionists, convict Trump on SOMETHING, appease China, and permanently make tens of millions of Americans totally dependent on government entitlements.

In recent years, the questionable lockdowns, restrictions, and mandates over COVID-19, and Democrats’ willingness to overlook street violence, enhances my view that the Left loves the idea of total authority and forevermore imposing its will on all of us.

Insanity Over the Top

The panoply of liberal or Leftist viewpoints, from no need for voter ID to restrictions on the 1st Amendment, to indoctrinating children is harmful to society.

Is it acceptable to teach children that there are more than 50 genders? Do you believe, as Leftists do that children may choose their gender? Do you think that cross-dressers ought to be reading to children at story hour? Should the sciences, mathematics, and other core academic disciplines be taught to accommodate ‘politically diverse’ points of view?

Are you okay with colleges holding separate graduation exercises and celebrations for different ethnic minorities? Martin Luther King, Jr, must be rolling over in his grave. Should entire college curricula be redesigned because most of the great works of literature throughout history have been written by white males?

Should student loans be exonerated? Should colleges establish safe spaces? Are you perturbed when conservative speakers are disrupted from speaking on campus, or are banned from campus? Curiously, can a university promise students an unbiased education when 97% of college professors’ political donations go to Democrats?

Open the Spigots!

Should Medicare be provided for all and, if so, how do you pay for it? Is late-trimester abortion acceptable? After a baby is born, is it the right of the mother and the doctor to choose whether or not that person will continue to live?

Should we have open borders, and let in anyone who wants to come here, now approaching 9 million since Biden was installed? Are illegal immigrants to be given free healthcare once they cross the border, as all Democrat presidential contenders stated on live TV in 2020? How do hordes arrive at the southern border, well-fed and hydrated, after trekking 100s or 1000s of miles, with sturdy walking shoes and cell phones? Should they be flown and bussed all over the U.S. courtesy of the Biden administration? Are sanctuary cities a good idea, and do they support the lives and aspirations of actual U.S. citizens?

When newspaper headlines scream about gun violence, is wringing your hands over the issue any solace for families in Chicago or Baltimore ghetto communities who experience gun violence on a daily basis? Do you care about the issue, or do you only get riled up when the mainstream media stokes your emotions by giving World War II coverage to carefully crafted, elevated cases?

Is calling others racist acceptable when, in your own heart, you know that you are biased at times against this group or that? Is virtue signaling an acceptable form of social participation, or should one actually take appropriate, non-violent action to address a perceived wrong? Is a comment from 30 or 40 years ago made by a celebrity — or a politician, for that matter — enough to cancel his or her career?

Goals and Tactics of Violent Groups

Are the goals and violent tactics of Antifa acceptable to you? If they’re proud of what they stand for and forthright in their actions, why do they wear ski masks? Appearing in selected cities in time to cause trouble, and leading the turmoil following the death of George Floyd, how many of them actually hold jobs?

In pursuit of protests, do any pay for their own transportation and housing costs? If they do not pay for themselves, who is paying? Most curiously, why do they often go after the most vulnerable people they can find in any gathering? Is it okay when law enforcement stands down in the face of violence committed by those on the left?

The Left embraces mass insanity and it’s getting more absurd all the time. Yet, it appears that Leftists do not understand the magnitude and ramifications of many of their political and social views. Their agenda, fully implemented, would destroy our civilization in less than a few years.
One Generation

Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men [and women] were free.”

It would be nice to reach consensus, in some way, with those on the Left, however, my sensibilities cry out and say that would be cultural and national suicide.

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Business

Work-Life Balance in Your Life

It the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life

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Work-life balance (WLB) is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life with sufficient leisure. WLB, also referred to by some as work-life harmony, work-life shift, work-life blend, work-life effectiveness, or work-life integration, requires focus and awareness despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for our time and attention.

Work-life balance entails having what I call “breathing space” for yourself each day, feeling a sense of accomplishment while not being consumed by work, and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. WLB is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within the course of a day and a week, and however many years you have left in your life.

Supporting Disciplines

Several disciplines support work-life balance though, individually, none are synonymous with work-life balance:

1) Self Management

Sufficiently managing one’s self can be challenging, particularly in getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Self-management is the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital, and that life, time, and available resources are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us.

2) Time Management

Effective time management involves making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned – you can only keep pace when your resources match your challenges. Time management is enhanced through appropriate goals and discerning what is both important and urgent, versus important OR urgent. It entails understanding what you do best and when, and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks.

3) Stress Management

By nature, societies tend to become more complex over time. In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable. More people, noise, and distractions, independent of one’s individual circumstances, require each of us to become more adept at maintaining tranquility and being able to work ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress, while focusing on one thing at a time helps decrease stress.

4) Change Management

In our fast-paced world, change is virtually the only constant. Continually adopting new methods, adapting old, and re-adapting all methods is vital to a successful career and a happy home life. Effective change management involves offering periodic and concerted efforts so that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you.

5) Technology Management

Effectively managing technology requires ensuring that technology serves you, rather than abuses you. Technology has always been with us, since the first walking stick, spear, flint, and wheel. Today, the rate of technological change is accelerating, brought on by vendors seeking expanding market share. Often you have no choice but to keep up with the technological Joneses, but rule technology, don’t let it rule you.

6) Leisure Management

The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges 1) the importance of rest and relaxation, 2) that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience, and 3) that one can’t indefinitely short-change leisure without repercussions. Curiously, too much of the same leisure activity, however enjoyable, can lead to monotony. Thus, effective leisure management requires varying one’s activities.

Entirely Achievable

Achieving work-life balance does not require radical changes in what you do. It is about developing fresh perspectives and sensible, actionable solutions that are appropriate for you. It is fully engaging in life with what you have, right where you are, smack dab in the ever-changing dynamics of your existence.

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