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  • Writer's pictureCoach Elizabeth Brink

3 Ways to Wrangle Interruptions

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

It’s unavoidable in normal conditions to find your attention pulled in multiple directions, but major world events and election years AT THE SAME TIME are a recipe for massive overload on working memory.

If you’re struggling to stay on task, remember what you were doing before an interruption, or feeling unmotivated and exhausted I'm talking to you.

I don't typically like "tips & tricks," because they often leave people feeling more shame when they don't work. With that in mind, proceed with caution. You have permission to take some, leave some when it comes to strategies. You have permission to customize things to your circumstances and strengths. I'll share some of my own customizations below.

Here are three small ways I battle interruptions (hello, toddlers).

1. Create a “Not Now” list

Alan Brown teaches this strategy to address interruptions. He says when something pops up while you’re on another task, ask yourself if it is:

  • what you’re doing right now,

  • important but not what you’re doing now, or

  • BS and not what you’re doing now.

If it’s anything but what you’re doing right now, unload it by adding it to your "not now" list. This helps relieve your brain of the task or idea without pulling you away from what you are doing now. You can review the list later and move things to your task list or just leave it there. My customization: I don't decide in the moment if it is important or not. I just add it to the "not now" list and ask that later. Sometimes even that quick decision can derail you.

2. Find a buddy to check in with

A quick 10-15 min call or video chat to share your top priorities for the day and quickly share status on the ones from the day before creates external accountability without judgement. You’ll be surprised how motivating it is to complete something so you can tell your buddy you did it. My customization: This is based on SCRUM project management "Stand Ups." I sometimes write my top 2-3 down on a post-it so I can check by it all day. In the ADHD Enclave, members post their daily priorities and report out on success or get ideas to get unstuck.

3. Leave a trail of breadcrumbs for future you

When you get interrupted and need to switch gears, write down where you left off and what needs to happen next with the thing you are pausing. This helps your working memory to get back on track more quickly when you return. My customization: Sometimes I email or text myself the next step so I see it first thing.

How do you manage interruptions?

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