Leaving a trail

Photo courtesy of Kat Selvocki (Creative Commons)

Photo courtesy of Kat Selvocki (Creative Commons)

I get interrupted a lot at work. No I mean constantly. It is challenging some days to stay focused and get things done because each interruption invites a shift to a new task or project, and by the end of the day, my desk ends up literally stacked with all the things I started and didn’t finish. I find email drafts the next day that I thought I had sent (no wonder I didn’t get a response since I never finished hitting send!). I have little notes all over the place, and people often have to ask more than once to get something from me.

I don’t like working that way, so I’m figuring out a way to leave myself markers – kind of like a trail of breadcrumbs, to the work I need to be doing.

To counteract all the interruptions, I’m learning some ways to trigger a reminder that gets me back on track. One thing is to leave a blank pad of paper by my computer so that I can write things down. When someone comes in to say we need to order this, or can I print out that, or they need these figures, I write it down for later and continue with what I was doing.

I’m learning to say, “I’m in the middle of something now, but I will get that in a little while.” That way I can finish what I’m working on, or at least get to a stopping point, and then get other things done.

I’m also learning to finish a thought or an entry when the phone rings. Instead of picking up on the first ring, I get to a logical stopping point and then answer – and sometimes I let it go to voice mail (gasp). That action alone has helped tremendously in staying on track, and eliminating a lot of the mistakes I was making.

How do you stay focused in spite of interruptions?

4 thoughts on “Leaving a trail

  1. In my company we started a policy last year of email conversations only. As there is a constant “paper trail” no one can forget anything. No more ” I’m sure I asked you to do that” If it’s not on email then it didn’t happen. Totally removed the blame culture we had been cultivating.

    • That’s an interesting way to approach things but I see how it could be effective, unless you could say you never received the email. But that does eliminate the confusion or thinking you did something you didn’t. Glad it is working!

  2. I haven’t figured out a system for myself yet. I like the idea of having a pad of paper and writing things down and getting to them later. It’s so frustrating to be constantly switching gears!

    • Nothing seems perfect, but having something to write on and come back to later sure seems to help!

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