Focus vs. Control

March 08, 2001

Today was a singularly frustrating day. I?m in charge of two major projects, and heavily involved in at least two more. This in and of itself isn't bad. Having more to do is better than having nothing to fill up the day. However, when you are constantly interrupted it is difficult to accomplish anything.

I think the lesson for me here is about control. I am torn between staying focused on my own task and responding to the need presented by whoever is interrupting me. When someone asks me a question or stops by my cubical I want to help them immediately. What I need to learn to do is take care of myself first. If I don't take care of me, then any assistance I offer will be tainted by my upset. Not my upset at being interrupted, but rather my upset at ignoring my needs in the moment.

I'm currently reading a great book about programming. In the section about estimating the authors make a great point. They claim the best response to the question. "When will you be done?" is to say, "Let me get back to you on that." The idea here is to take the time to assess the question and take care of your self before committing to an answer. In my present situation I need to learn to hear the person and their request, and then take the time to take care of myself before responding.

This may mean putting them off for a few minutes while I complete my current task. Or it might mean asking them to send me e-mail so I can take more time to formulate a response. In any event if I want to avoid the frustration of day like today, I need to focus on my needs first and foremost. And only when I have met them should I attempt to respond to the wants of others.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.