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Reduce Interruptions, Have Everything Go Better

Today we are prone to too many interruptions to approach our potential level of productivity

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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.

In everyday life, 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 unprecedented 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.

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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, at times during the week, have the 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, originally published in 1990, and revised several times since, 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.

As the Allstate commercial used to say, “Life comes at you fast.” In the future, today will seem like an era of peace and tranquility. 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.

It’s All  Finite

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 now, 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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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:

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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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Business

Work-life Balance: The Enduring Quest

Organizations today recognize the importance of supporting employees’ well-being while maintaining productivity

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Thank goodness that organizations today increasingly recognize the importance of supporting employees’ well-being while maintaining productivity. As such, the corporate quest for work-life balance, harmony, and integration has gained great prominence.

Key Aspects

Here are 12 key aspects of this pursuit gleaned from a variety of programs:

1. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements: Offering flexible work schedules, remote work options, and part-time opportunities allows employees to better balance their professional and personal lives.

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2. Have Clear Policies: Establishing clear policies and guidelines regarding work hours, overtime, and expectations helps employees manage their time effectively.

3. Support Mental Health: Providing access to mental health resources, counseling, and stress management programs can address employees’ emotional well-being.

4. Give Leave: Offering generous paid time off, including vacation, sick leave, and parental leave, allows employees to address personal and family needs without fear of repercussions.

5. Prevent Burnout: Encouraging employees to disconnect from work-related technology after hours helps prevent burnout and supports work-life separation.

6. Support Workload Management: Ensuring that employees have manageable workloads and realistic deadlines prevents excessive stress and long working hours.

7. Provide Wellness Programs: Implementing wellness initiatives, such as fitness facilities, nutrition programs, and health screenings, promotes a healthier work-life balance.

8. Enable Employee Assistance Programs: Such programs provide confidential counseling and support services for employees facing personal challenges.

9. Promote a Culture of Balance: Company culture plays a significant role in work-life balance. Leaders should model a balanced lifestyle, and the organization should celebrate accomplishments beyond work.

10. Maintain Continuous Communication: Engaging in open dialogues with employees about their needs and concerns regarding work-life balance fosters a supportive and responsive corporate culture.

11. Empower Workers with Training and Education: Providing training on time management, stress reduction, and resilience equips employees with the skills to better balance their lives.

12. Leverage Remote Work Policies: Crafting clear remote work policies and expectations ensures that remote employees have a structured work-life balance.

Bringing in the Hired Gun

As the world’s only holder of the title, “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” as issued by the USPTO,  I am often summoned by organizations to enhance work-life balance for their troops. In all, I’ve delivered programs and spoken to 960 groups. Below depicts an encounter with a company who shall remain nameless for reasons of confidentiality. See if this squares up with your experience in your organization.

The following responses were derived as a result of my sending a questionnaire to the conference meeting planner where I was to be their keynote speaker. I requested the names of 10 people who would be in the audience. I called each of them to discuss their current challenges. Here are their actual replies to three of my questions:

1) If you could magically resolve a work-life balance issue, what would it be?

* Have more breathing room between high-level projects.
* Accomplish more during the workday and leave mentally free.
* Hire more staff!
* Take vacations and time off with no big pile ups when returning.

* Be allowed to take some Fridays off and catch up on much needed appointments.
* Reduce the number of pop-up requests and questions flying at me all day long so that I could ACTUALLY do what I need to do each day.
* Be approved to work from home or adjust my hours. My personal time isn’t respected.

2) What do you seek to derive from attending a session such as mine?

* Manage my time more effectively.
* Gain tools to embrace life while living it
* Develop stronger skills.
* Make work-life balance a reality in our company’s work-first culture.

* Acquire strategies, tips, or ideas to re-think my approach.
* Learn to change my focus, to be more productive, balanced, and focused.
* Be able to balance the few things that I do control during my day.
* Discover tips for keeping my staff in balance.

* Gain a realistic expectation of what we can achieve or experience.
* Develop a more positive outlook for the group.

3) Are there any observations you could offer?

* Work-life balance is a huge topic organization-wide. We are high performers who want to do a good job. We compromise our personal lives to meet work demands. We have to keep pace with the leaders and teams we support. If we don’t, we’ll be deemed unresponsive.

* A frenetic pace seems to be inherent in this company. Our team does a good job of emphasizing work-life balance; the problem lies with the surrounding divisions that thrive on working all the time, for no good reason. Yes, we are in a global space, working in different time zones, but some of these people are beyond the pale.

* What I love about this organization are the people. They are dedicated to the cause and truly want to deliver reliable, affordable, dynamic, and versatile solutions to our customers. However, our frenetic pace isn’t necessary. Not every project is the most vital. Not every problem is an emergency. Not every request has to be filled now.

* If in charge, I’d implement a more efficient, logical pace organization-wide. If we all took a breath and reevaluated how we work, in a more focused environment, we might find that we could produce better results with less stress.

Resonates Strongly

As you can see, the topic of work-life balance resonates strongly among today’s career professionals. Going forward, may more organization recognize and acknowledge the critical role that employee wellness and work-life balance has on the organization’s overall effectiveness.

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