Non Productivity

Defeating Interruptions

It’s interesting reading old books on being productive. Many of them have a chapter on productivity dampeners, with unwanted interruptions being common across almost every list I have ever read. Of course, for the writers of these old books on productivity (before the late 1990s), the source of interruptions were people coming by your office uninvited, or phone calls ringing on your desk phone. And perhaps a fax here or there. And mail delivery a couple of times a day. 

Unwanted. Interruptions. Kill. Productivity.

Fast forward to 2019 and it is as though someone wanted to undermine the very productivity gold we all seek with these amazing new tools. Rather than being interrupted several times a day as in olden times, now we face an unrelenting minute-by-minute barrage of emails, chats, tweets, status updates, text messages, phone calls, and yes, even the odd visit from an uninvited guest. Interruptions to the max. Concentration time eliminated. If you wanted to talk conspiracy theory, perhaps the very introduction of these amazing tools has been a front to actually destroy the ability of knowledge workers to get anything done.  

In light of the above, the single most important announcement for worker productivity made at Microsoft Build 2019 this week – if not the single most important product release for Office 365 since its inception – is your Focus Plan in MyAnalytics. Focus time takes workers away from the firehose of hyper-interruption that has become the standard cadence of work. It recommends and coaches that every worker create blocks of dedicated time for concentrated work – booked out on their calendar, with a certain number of focus time blocks every week, and with notifications held back while each focus time block is happening. Peter Drucker said you can either meet or work, but not both at the same time. For organisations with a culture of back-to-back meetings complemented with a never-ending stream of electronic interruption, focus time will be [1] difficult and [2] transformative beyond anything else.

Go Microsoft. Of all your tools to enable productivity, who would have thought that your greatest contribution to productivity was coaching people to stay away from them.

Categories: Non Productivity