Interruptions as currency

A lot of retrospectives and conversations I’m involved with lately revolve around the topic of time scarcity or the need for better time management.

When people finally can take some time (ah!) to reflect upon what’s causing time scarcity, one common source are interruptions.

“Can you ignore notifications?”, more than one person asked me, disgruntled.

I can, because I turned off most notifications on most apps.

Are you even allowed to do that, at your job? Think about it.

How much it would cost to you to turn off if not all, most of your notifications?

Can you go rogue and turn off all the activity status indicators?

I don’t like the old “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

Case in point, this next question: if you turn off your notifications and your status indicators, how would other people react?

This is the blind spot of most productivity and time management tips: they don’t take into account that we behave in a certain way mostly because we are inside an environment, with other people.

It’s not just a matter of self-discipline.

We are not distracted just because technology allows for more and more pervasive distractions.

We are constantly distracted also because it’s almost part of our social contract that if I distract you, you can distract me.

“That’s how it works, it’s an exchange”, someone willing to that their time back told me on the subject of interruptions.

Interruptions have become a currency then, so much for those talking about the “attention economy”: if you pleasantly exchange distractions with one another, it’s really a “distraction economy”, not and attention one.

I liked having those conversations with teams, because very quickly everyone started to commit to being less distracted and to distract others less.

It has to be a multi-party agreement in order to be effective: as I said before it’s not just self-discipline, it’s everybody involved in using distractions as currency that has to stop these transactions.

From the field is a series of articles about conversations I have on the field with colleagues, clients and teams

Header photo by Robert Linder on Unsplash