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Interruption Management

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Daily Distractions - Interruption Management

Vast segments of the population have turned to online exhibitionism. Writing in the Washington Post, economist Robert J. Samuelson observed this six years ago, and the situation has gotten worse today. “It turns out that the Internet has unleashed the greatest outburst of mass exhibitionism in human history.”

“People seem to crave popularity or celebrity more than they fear the loss of privacy.” However, “what goes on the Internet often stays on the Internet."

Of particular concern: Something that seems harmless, silly or merely impetuous today might seem offensive, stupid or reckless in two weeks, two years or two decades,” said Samuelson. “Henry David Thoreau famously remarked that ‘the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Thanks to technology, that's no longer necessary. People can now lead lives of noisy and ostentatious desperation...”

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Less Decision Fatigue in the New Year - Interruption Management

"Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?" in the New York Times in 2011 is worth reading today.

An excerpt:
"Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue -- you’re not consciously aware of being tired -- but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways."

The antidote: slow down, focus on what counts, let go of trivial and peripheral issues, and have a life.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Brainpower in Complex Times - Interruption Management

As we approach 2017, here are insights from an article worth considering:

"How to Think: Managing Brain Resources in an Age of Complexity" by Ed Boyden in Technology Review is a brilliant article, excerpted here:

"When I applied for my faculty job at the MIT Media Lab, I had to write a teaching statement. One of the things I proposed was to teach a class called "How to Think," which would focus on how to be creative, thoughtful, and powerful in a world where problems are extremely complex, targets are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like nodes of enormous networks that constantly reconfigure. In the process of thinking about this, I composed 10 rules...

1. Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read...

2. Learn how to learn, rapidly... Be able to rapidly prototype ideas. Know how your brain works.

3. Work backward from your goal. Or else you might never get there...

4. Always have a long-term plan. Even if you change it every day...

5. Make contingency maps. Draw all the things you need to do on a big piece of paper, and find out which things depend on other things...

6. Collaborate.

7. Make your mistakes quickly... Document what led to the error so that you learn what to recognize, and then move on...

8. As you develop skills, write up best-practices protocols... Instinct-ualize conscious control.

9. Document everything obsessively. If you don't record it, it may never have an impact on the world..

10. Keep it simple... If you can spend two days thinking of ways to make it 10 times simpler,
do it...

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Interrupted by Endless Televsion Ads? - Interruption Management

From six years ago, here’s a telling report from on How Much TV Commercial Length has Grown over the Years:

“We all accept commercials as a necessary evil because they pay for the shows we love to watch. But, how much is reasonable to accept? This question was answered for me while watching a 2004 episode of Star Trek Enterprise. The commercials came so often and lasted so long that is was almost impossible to maintain a sense of continuity with the show.

...Thanks to the availability of video recordings of past shows, this was easy to determine. Scouring my video library I found shows ranging from 1964 to 2004. Here's what I discovered:

* 1964 - 17.8 percent of the time devoted to commercials
* 1977 - 17.8 percent
* 1994 - 24.5 percent
* 2004 - 30.0 percent

These were all for main line shows aired during prime time hours.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Making Smarter Decisions - Interruption Management

My colleague, Bob Wendover, has released a great little book on decision making called Figure It Out! Making Smart Decisions in a Dumbed-Down World. This quick read got me thinking about all the times I need to do a better job of considering decisions before acting on impulse. Don’t we all? 

Each chapter is augmented with a four-minute “deeper dive” video which helps you flesh out the concepts. To launch the book, Bob is offering a special package on his website. 

Visit and order a copy.

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Many Choices, Little Focus - Interruption Management

If making product purchases was as simple as choosing supermarket items, we could all cope. But the tyranny of choice extends to large products, as well as services like insurance, retirement options, investments, and frequent flyer programs.

By the time we absorb all the rules and regulations, we heap on more stress to our already stretched-thin composure. I recommend that you judge the merits of any product or service on two criteria:

(1) the intended benefit, and

(2) the ease with which you can understand and enjoy those benefits.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Piles are Distracting - Interruption Management

Piles accumulate... be they stacks of mail, reports, survey forms, seminar announcements, catalogs, etc.  Confront your piles head-on with a take-no-prisoners attitude!

If you haven't noticed already, such piles can accumulate in a hurry. A couple of file folders, issues of a magazine, some office memos, something you clipped from the newspaper, a single day's worth of mail, some fliers left by your door, and POOF, you've got a pile!

Piles, by their nature, tend to represent complexity and unfinished business. Each pile in your visual field, i.e., that you encounter in any given day, registers in your brain, if only for a picosecond at a time, as more stuff that you haven't really dealt with. Fortunately, there are ways to handle the ad hoc piles materializing a little too frequently in your life:

* Dismantle piles with relative grace. Have available a pen, some file folders, paper clips, rubber bands and a stapler. Now you're ready to collect everything on your desk or table or elsewhere that needs, or you suspect may need, attention. Stack all of it in front of you in a temporary pile. If the pile is high, your incentive to do so may be that much greater. In 30 minutes or less, you're going to dismantle and reallocate this simplicity-threatening pile. Allocate each item to one of four locations – an important pile, an urgent pile, an interesting pile, or the recycling bin, where most items will go.

* Allocate to the best of your knowledge. If an item is urgent and important, place it in the important pile near the top. If it's simply urgent, place it in the appropriate pile. If you are unsure of any particular item, place it at the bottom of the large stack, but only do so once for each item. On the second encounter, you have to classify it. In thirty minutes or less, the voluminous pile should be gone, and you're left with three semi-neat tiny piles. Rank the items and then re-arrange them in each pile. Downgrade or toss anything you can. You're left with three smaller, more precisely arranged piles, important, urgent, and interesting.

* Get meaner and leaner.  What else can you chuck? What can be combined, ignored, delayed, delegated, done in multiples, armed-out, automated, systemized, or used for kindling? The more items you can downgrade to interesting, the farther ahead you'll be because you can deal with these items when you feel like it.

* With what's left, tackle items one by one. After you've identified the most important project or task at the top of the important folder, begin working on it. If you can't complete it, proceed with it as far as you can go. Then place it back in the folder, either on top or where you determine it now belongs. Similarly, begin on the next most important item and proceed as far as you can go.

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Jeff Davidson - Expert at Managing Interruption Overload

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Jeff Davidson: Bio

Managing Interruption Overload

Is the constant crushing burden of information and communication overload dragging you down, pulling you off course, and impeding your effectiveness? By the end of your workday, do you feel overworked, overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted? Would you like to be more focused, productive, and competitive, while remaining balanced and in control?

If you're continually facing too many interruptions and too many demands, you need Breathing Space.

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