First thing in the morning, I eagerly tackle my big project. I am in the zone, creative juices flowing! A half hour in, I get an exciting email. Ooh! This will just take 10 minutes! While answering the email, I get a text inviting me to lunch next Wednesday. I’m starting to text my reply when my phone rings. Fifteen annoying minutes later, I wrap up the call. All these interruptions are really bugging me. I remember I’d sent a report to the printer, but on my way to the printer run into a coworker who wants to talk about her challenges with her teenage son.
When I finally get back to my desk, I’m frazzled, my creative juices evaporated. I reach for the report. Not there. Hmm. Did I ever make it to the printer? Did I lay it down somewhere? And I have a vague feeling that I dropped another ball or two along the way. It’s only midmorning, but already I can’t wait for my terrible, horrible, no good day to end.
Interruption-riddled days happen at home, work, school, even on vacation. But after years of spinning multiple plates—and feeling proud of how many I was spinning—I’ve learned three secrets that keep interruptions from stealing my peace.
1. Quit interrupting myself.
Most of my interruptions in my terrible, horrible, no good day were self-interruptions. I interrupted my creative project to answer an email, my email to answer a text, and my text to answer a call that could have gone to voice mail. When I feel compulsion to interrupt myself, the problem isn’t with others’ demands; it’s with me. Not only is frequent task-switching frazzling; it also sabotages productivity.
Now when I start to interrupt myself, I usually catch it right away and return to my original task. “One thing at a time” has become my mantra.
2. Create interruption-free zones for certain kinds of work.
When I’m reading, writing, praying, or preparing to speak, I need chunks of uninterrupted time. Some people can do this kind of work at home, others prefer a Starbucks, a library, or a lake cabin. Some close their office doors and everyone knows this means, “Do Not Disturb.” Even Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places” (Luke 5:16). My morning project called for an interruption-free zone. Some of my frustration came from choosing the wrong workspace.
3. Recognize when interruptions are divine appointments in disguise.
I can choose to view my coworker with the family problem as either an interruption or a divine appointment. (See Mark 10:13-16.) If I see an interruption, I’ll feel imposed upon. If I see a divine appointment, I can be fully present and walk away energized.
When I quit interrupting myself, carve out quiet spaces for certain tasks, and welcome divine appointments in disguise, I can navigate most days without interrupting my peace.
- Which of the three practices are you best at?
- Which would you like to get better at?
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