During an Agile talk by Angela Dugan (@OakParkGirl on Twitter) at ThatConference in Wisconsin (Awesome conference by the way http://www.thatconference.com) I had a bit of a revelation regarding the amount of work that I really get done in a week. I typically work around 55 hours a week…by choice in most cases as I really do enjoy my job but the reality is that around 15 of those hours are normally lost to the interruptions of everyday operations. Please do not think that I am saying that meetings, calls and emails are not important as communication is probably the biggest part of any project but when I plan my work week I am setting myself up for failure over and over again.
Over a period of two weeks in July I wrote down everything that I did while I was working and I mean everything. If my concentration was broke for any reason whatsoever it went in my “hours journal”. Looking back I probably should have named it the “minutes journal” based on the number of times the interruptions happened in a single hour. Doing this allowed me to understand that I was constantly being barraged by interruptions, whether it was an email that I had to respond to immediately, a phone call I simply had to take, or a question from a co-worker that needed answered I was skipping in an infinite loop of disturbances with no break in sight.
Of course like every good egg head I decided to create a solid plan of attack. I closed Outlook down and opened it up every two hours, turned the cell phone to silent and broke my day into what I called “hours of focus”. These basically turned into 2 hours sprints with the occasional interruption to answer questions from a client or coworker as necessary. I saw some improvements in a pretty short time span and then I just fell back into the old routine within 3 weeks.
Which of course leads me back to my revelation at ThatConference. Even with my hours of focus in place I was still going to end up falling short of my expectations because although I was doing my best to minimize the interruptions they are always going to be there like some omnipresent monstrosity out to destroy my efforts. My actual revelation today is that while I plan to proceed to break out of my infinite loop of disturbances I have realized that they are never going to go away completely, I just need to plan for them more effectively.