Earlier this month, David Allen (The author of “Getting Things Done, the art of stress free productivity”) released a video on how he deals with daily interruptions.
Although GTD is a wonderful method, a recurring issue amongst GTD followers is – How to deal with the constant interruptions that we face each day.
I found this particularly useful since I follow GTD, but each phone call, person walking to my office, or simple chit chat with my staff in the lunch room often create scenarios that are unbalancing.
The video was fascinating! David showed how he controls his focus by navigating his incoming information. It looked so simple – he effectively blocked away elements that could disrupt his workflow by creating a rule to deal with interruption: Order!
He used the following tools:
1) “In-basket” – a placeholder for all incoming information.
2) Notepad – used for making notes as to when (time) he was interrupted on a certain item and what’s the next step for the particular item
3) Discipline –to review and complete the interrupted actions.
How I implemented what he said…sort of…
Probably like most people, I feel like I am juggling 10 different balls at the same time. I have my regular bombardment of emails throughout the day, impromptu meetings, changes to existing projects, new projects and tasks, etc. The only certainty during the day is that there isn’t any certainty.
I can say that I mastered GTD, but in the real world there’s always room for improvment. After watching the video, I made the following changes:
I started using my IQTELL notes application more frequently. Up until now, I’ve filed notes as references, someday items, ticklers, the usual. Now, every time I am interrupted, I immediately make a note and link it to the item I was working on, whether it’s a project, actionable task, tickler, etc. When I get back to it, I can easily see from my quick note to myself when I stopped working on it, and what I was going next. I also use a field I added to the note and categorize it as “Interruption”. On my Dashboard view, I can quickly see the list of items which were “Interrupted”. I quickly pick up where I leave off.
In essence the only modification I would recommend is: Don’t use notepads. They are addicting and, at least from my own experience, they bring me back to my past bad habits. When my notes are integrated into my GTD application, I feel that I am still in my GTD world. It’s a bit hard to explain but I feel more in control. Yellow pads remind me of the days that I had different note pads: I’d lose them, start new ones, “re-find” old ones; I am sure some of you can relate.
If someone comes into my office with a request; as soon as they leave, and sometime even when they are still there, I’ll immediately create an entry in my IQTELL GTD Workspace, whether it’s an actionable task, tickler, reference, etc. When the “interruption” is over, there is nothing for me to do other than continue my work. The “new” item is safely in my system; I’ve already made the decision as to when to deal with it, and I keep going about my day.
What about the hallway conversations you ask? Well, anytime anyone wants anything from me, I, of course, tell them “it’s sounds like a good idea” but that they should send me an email with the details. That’s the beauty of my GTD system ; my email is in IQTELL – once I receive the email, with a simple right click, I can make the decision to:
(1) delete – maybe it wasn’t a good idea after all.
(2) create a tickler.
(3) someday item.
(4) actionable task.
(5) project, etc.
Now, when I have those hallway conversations, I remain balanced because I know what’s coming next – they’ll send me an email; I’ll process it in my system. It’s not in my head, it is in the system, and once it is in my system – it will get done.
Do you have any suggestion on how you can deal with interruptions more effectively? Leave a comment and let’s talk about them.
* GTD® is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company. IQTELL is not affiliated with the David Allen Company.