Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: October 13, 2009 Archive

Focus on Interruptions

Posted at 5:05 AM on October 13, 2009 by Dale Connelly (19 Comments)

More about that in a moment, but first - this entertaining diversion.

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Now, where were we? Oh yes - interruptions.

Today I received this e-mail from idea man and innovator Spin Williams:

Hello DALE,

One of the greatest enemies of productivity is distraction.
It's a national crisis.

Did you know, on average, a working person is interrupted every twenty minutes? And once that interruption happens, it takes twenty-five minutes to get back on task?

Yes! It means that most interrupted people are interrupted AGAIN before they get back to the job they were trying to do in the first place. And it happens over and over, day in and year out.

Researchers have discovered that nobody is actually doing his or her real job, and they haven't done it for YEARS! But thanks to our multi-task loving culture where activity is thought to equal efficiency, as long as we stay busy, we don't notice that we're wasting our time!

While you think about that, could you stop what you're doing and go make a pot of coffee? I'll wait.

OK, thanks. Welcome back.

Have you been thinking about our national distraction crisis while you made the coffee? If you have, you've probably come to the same conclusion I reached moments ago - the real culprit in this enormous waste of time and resources is both easy to identify, and terribly difficult to address.

It's Other People!

In most cases, these Disruptive Other People are friends and co-workers - people who are constantly being interrupted, just like you, so they don't know what their real jobs are either. All they know is there's a whole bunch of stuff that isn't getting done, so they swing by your desk or shoot you an e-mail to ask you to take care of it.

I've decided to form a new company to face up to this pressing economic problem. It's called Spin Williams' Effective Attention Resources, or SWEAR. SWEAR will develop products to support a War on Distraction that will take place around your desk, your computer, and around your brain itself!

What are these products? I don't know. I haven't developed any because it took me the last two hours to come up with the business rationale you just read and I asked Kenny of lobby services to be my placeholder at The Meeting That Never Ends while I roughed it out.

I have to get back in there in case I missed something.

What would help fend off productivity-sucking interruptions and distractions? A helmet? A force field? Some kind of attention sentry to stand watch as you work, like a man-or-woman servant? Or maybe I should have SWEAR sponsor a big public seminar or an expensive-to-attend stadium rally with guest speakers, fireworks, stunts and dancers, all to bring all our attention to bear on the distraction problem.

If you can figure out a good way to fight these inefficient distractions, drop what you're doing right now and take a few minutes to give it to me here, for free.

I'll try to exploit your idea to make money. I SWEAR!

This looks like a potentially lucrative new venture for Spin. And an interesting project for you. What else were you going to do right now anyway?

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