How a Small Interruption Actually Kills Productivity

Small interruptions are anything but small.

They are massive. They throw you off track and there’s far more to them than the person or thing interrupting you realizes.

Nobody likes to be interrupted, yet the people that tend to point it out the most are the ones that do it the most. Amazing how that works, huh?

Interruptions kill productivity, whether at work, at home or in the middle of the night.

Interruptions kill productivity, whether at work, at home or in the middle of the night. Click To Tweet

Food gets burned when a chef gets interrupted.

Tea parties with daughters get thrown off track when dad or mom gets interrupted by the phone ringing.

Writers start to go just a little bit mad when they are interrupted mid-paragraph.

To all the interrupters out there, it’s time to stop thinking it’s just a small thing because it only takes a minute or two.

Your question wasn’t important and your comment was even less important, in the moment.

Patience is a Virtue


One of the most virtuous traits of any human is patience. Many women and men seek a mate they can describe as patient. It’s a virtue and one every Christian man and woman should strive for in their lives.

Patience is defined as prolonged suffering. Why would anybody want that?

Suffering allows us, as humans to grow, but we cannot learn patience when interruptions are constant. Small interruptions test the interrupter and the interruptee.

The interrupter could show patience by writing their question down and asking it when it’s a good time. Even asking if it’s a good time now is an interruption when I am writing and mid-sentence.

The interruptee could show patience by not going quite so mad, but it’s difficult for most of us. We are in the middle of a paragraph and the interruption simply cannot be tolerated when we have asked not to be interrupted during certain times of the day.

Patience is the cure for interruption. That funny joke isn’t necessary until later, even if you’re afraid you’ll forget it. It won’t enhance my life or make me smile like you want because you’re interrupting a task I see as important.

The Reaction Won’t Fit


The person interrupting with a question, joke, comment or even a suggestion won’t get the reaction they seek because they interrupted the person they want the reaction from.

Likely, they will get a tone, frustration, a fake laugh or smile and a half-nice “leave me alone, I am working.”

It has nothing to do with the way the person being interrupted actually feels about the other person. It has to do with the interruption, so don’t take it out on the person you interrupted.

How the most Minor Interruption Kills Productivity

You’re mid-paragraph working on a blog post and all of the sudden, your spouse, your child or someone else barges in with a question. Maybe you don’t have a door that shuts on your office and they just blurt out their comment right in the middle of your work space.

Do you feel violated just a little bit? Do you feel disrespected? Are you feeling like your work time doesn’t matter to them and it’s all of the sudden all about them?

Even if you had on sound-canceling headphones, you may get one of those universal symbols meaning “take your headphones off I have something important to say even if you’re in the middle of typing out a blog post you find important”

The person interrupting you sees it as you taking a few seconds away from what you’re doing for them. However, even the most minor interruption costs you far more than a few seconds.

When you get interrupted, it can send your mind on a roller coaster you were not prepared for. Click To Tweet

When you stop, you have to start again. When you get interrupted, it can send your mind on a roller coaster you were not prepared for.

Maybe your spouse interrupts you to ask about a bill that may be coming due. Now, your mind is thinking about your finances instead of the topic of the blog post you were working on.

Maybe your child interrupts you with one of those questions you cannot simply answer and dismiss. Instead, you have to take the time to be very careful about the way you answer because it’s actually a very important question.

Interruptions are like little monsters that start off small, in concept, yet grow into these big, scary, hairy, fanged beasts stealing your productivity.

Small Interruptions = Major Productivity Killer


Small interruptions are massive productivity killers and they can even start chipping away at your self-confidence. Maybe you were having a great day, right on track to reach your daily goals, yet one little interruption threw you off and now you’re a half hour behind.

You spent more time worrying about some bill you weren’t thinking about until you were reminded about it than you should have. Sure, the bill is important, but it’s not a problem that will get solved right in that moment and it’s not one that even needs to be solved in that moment.

It’s similar to those of us that have overactive minds at night. Sometimes, you’re lying in bed thinking about a dozen things that you cannot do a thing about right now. You know that, but you cannot shut your mind off and get to sleep.

Small interruptions can be similar. They can rob you of precious time you need to write in peace or do whatever type of work you do. They can rob you of time with children or even your spouse when you feel the interruption must be addressed or the person interrupting you isn’t going to leave you alone.

Small interruptions are like that firecracker you thought was just going to make a small sound but ended up making your ears ring. Click To Tweet

Small interruptions are like that firecracker you thought was just going to make a small sound but ended up making your ears ring. They seem small, but there’s really no such thing at a small interruption, especially for those working from home.

Handling Interruptions

I could go on and on with tips about how to handle these interruptions and they might help a little. However, it’s simply not something you can handle a certain way and have everything be hunky dory.

Interruptions have to be addressed with the person interrupting you and they cannot be addressed when the interruption happens. If you try to address the interruption when it happens, you’ll end up with a pissed off spouse or other person that doesn’t hear you at all.

Remember, the person interrupting you seems to think they are allowed to interrupt you because they see it as no big deal. You have to communicate how much of a big deal it is to them and tell them to email you the question (make sure your email program is closed down during work) or write it down for later.

The key is making sure everybody in your life understands your work hours and that you are not to be interrupted unless it’s a dire emergency. Most of the so-called small interruptions are not dire emergencies.

You can even use the trick from How I Met Your Mother. In one of the episodes, Marshall and Lilly had just brought their first child home from the hospital. They were getting no sleep and were struggling because their friends were interrupting their life at every turn.

The couple put a rule in place and told their friend if it’s not at least an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, it wasn’t important enough to interrupt them with the problem. Of course, this backfired as very few of their issues were that important and the couple ended up missing out on so many things.

However, we can learn something from this and teach our spouse, children, family and friends what constitutes an emergency. It’s like when mom says, “Unless you’re bleeding or something is broken, it’s not an emergency, so don’t interrupt me.”

Set boundaries by defining what constitutes an interruption, as some things do. I have walked away mid-sentence before because something needed my absolute immediate attention. However, this is incredibly rare as most of the things we think have to be handled right now could have waited an hour, a day or even a week.

We live in a society craving immediate gratification. This causes what seem like small interruptions to happen all the time because we have too much access, some of the time.

Set boundaries by setting a time for the questions or comments of the day. Small interruptions can become a part of the past. You can even ask your spouse to email you any questions or comments that may be important, but don’t need to be addressed immediately. While an actual conversation is always preferred over email, if they are afraid they will forget, email is just fine for small things without an immediate need.

Do you struggle with what seem like small interruptions killing your productivity? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

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