Managing distractions…

Why on earth would we need to manage the distractions? Doesn’t will power deal with it?

I am sure you have heard the statistics.

A survey of executives revealed that they get interrupted on average once every six to eight minutes, all day long, and if they are lucky, they will clock between 45 and 90 minutes of really productive work. And other research tells us that it can take you between 10 and 15 minutes to bring your focus back to the task you were working on before the interruption.

Am I the only one who wonders how on earth you can make that math work? By that formula, you get interrupted in eight minutes, and it takes you 10 minutes to get focused again, but before you can get yourself focused again, you will be interrupted again, and again, and again, and again.

No wonder so many people report having so little productive time during the course of their day. Of course, the tragedy is it can take you 8, 10 or 12 hours just to fit in that 90 minutes of productive time.

So what can you do?

Dan Kennedy says “if they can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you.”

How can you make yourself inaccessible? And do you want to? Interestingly, I run into people all day long who will tell me that they cannot possibly turn off their phone, turn off their email, turn off their instant messaging and close their door. I always wonder why not? Is being instantly available to everyone, all day long, more important than getting your job/project/goal done?


What if you just tried to give yourself 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to focus on the single most important task before you? Just 30 minutes. Turn off the phone – let it go to voicemail. Turn off the email – and I do mean turn it off. Close your office door (or don’t even go in to your office). Focus on that one task, get done, and then go ahead and turn everything back on.

I promise you two things. First, you will make massive progress on the task, and the project it is part of. Second, Everyone else will survive without you for 30 minutes.

Because, really, without a life, what’s the point?


  1. Sue Painter says:

    Ahhh, the time management beast. I agree, calming and focusing means you actually make money. Being constantly accessible is a big danger sign to me.
    Sue Painter

  2. Terry – I LOVE this – especially the part about everyone surviving without you. Last week I did this for a whole day mid-week to work on my book and it was incredibly productive! I do like your idea of small chunks of time…
    Here’s to super-productivity and no distractions!

    • ofyl says:


      If you ever manage NO distractions – let me know! Best I can do is eliminate/ignore/block them for short periods of time. And is can be humbling to realize people get along without you for periods of time – so much for being indispensable!

  3. Kiyla Fenell says:

    Thank you for the great article. How do we get anything done? I never realized how much I do get interrupted until I read this. The first thing I am going to change…close the door to my office. I probably won’t get as much incoming traffic.

    • ofyl says:

      YAY – here is to some productivity! You may also discover that it doesn’t take nearly as long to get things done as it used to. 🙂

  4. I turned my desk around in my home office. When people walk by they see my back and not my face, so they are less likely to try to strike up a conversation. Thank you for the reminder…protect our productivity time.
    Dr. Robert Fenell

    • ofyl says:

      Robert, I love this. Another version of if they can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you! If you can’t see them, they can’t interrupt you!

  5. So true Terry! I finally put the flex/focus/open scheduler to work and go more done in one week than I had in a month! No one died, emails all got read, no one harrangued me because I wasn’t reachable, etc.
    Great article

    • ofyl says:


      We only think people are anxiously awaiting our next contact. In my experience, most are quite satisfied to know when they will hear back. There are just so many ways to be reached these days. If we don’t take control, then by default everyone else will!

  6. Terri Cook says:

    Luv this. Its sooo important to be productive and it amazes me also – people come to see me and one of the key things is I cant get anything done – the first thing I say – turn off the ph, close the door – work from home – do what it takes to create the time to be more productive. wonderful stuff -you are right – without a life whats the point!!

    Joy & Blessings


    • ofyl says:

      Sometimes I think I am getting paid to give people permission to not answer the phone, not read the email, and breathe! Now, that is real job security.

  7. Ellen Martin says:


    As an productivity consultant working with people on these same issues, I will say you couldn’t be more correct! Constant availability is rarely an actual requirement of your job. People will eventually learn to respect that 30 minute focus time. The biggest challenge is respecting it yourself!

    Sage advice! Thanks for sharing.


  8. Focus, Baby! Awesome ideas, Terry! ♥ Katherine

  9. Lisa Manyon says:

    “If they cannot find you– they cannot interrupt you!” This is classic Kennedy and it is so important to protect your time. There are days I am not available to return calls just so I can focus on my workload and creativity.

    Write on!~


  10. ofyl says:

    @ Katherine – thanks!
    @ Lisa – yes, exactly. Usually when I head to a rented office, and just work. (Or a coffee shop, depending on the kind of work.)

  11. Great article and reminder to treat my own time with respect. In my day job I have 76 staff and from time to time I make sure my secretary closes my door and guards it for an hour or so – even then people try to stand on tippy toes and look over the frosted glass!
    Heidi Alexandra

  12. Mitch Tublin says:

    Tuning Out To Tune In. This is what I say to many of my clients. Turn off all the electronics and take some time to think, create, grow…………

  13. Jenny Fenig says:

    Thank you for the reminder. I’m such a huge fan of minimizing distractions to maximize productivity. Takes a lot of discipline to NOT answer the phone or check email when you know the conversation might be fun … but would derail your goal for the day. Staying focused tends to pay off in the end!

  14. Great post and very relevant. I am in the process of hiring a virtual assistant to manage my phone calls so that I can become more productive on the important tasks.

  15. Terry — such great advice. I am all too guilty of allowing myself to be continually interrupted, especially with email and texts. Time to implement the Focus/Flex/Open time so I can work on my book like Lynn did! 🙂 Thanks for the great reminder.

    • ofyl says:


      Remember, you can take baby steps with the focus. You don’t have to set aside hours at a time. Sometimes just 30 minutes will crack something wide open.

  16. Phil Dyer says:

    I really love the “everyone else will survive without you for 30 minutes” comment!

    I have found this to be so true…just granting myself 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time creates so much productivity! I have also found that taking 3-5 minutes ahead of time to clear, focus and set the intention of what I want to accomplish in that time can be really helpful.


    • ofyl says:

      Phil! I love it. Yes, taking a few moments to set the intention of what you want to accomplish gives you that much clearer a focus!

  17. I get up 6.20am while my baby is sleeping so I can get focus time! I agree, answering the phone in middle of creative work will decrease implementation. I put mine on silent 🙂

    • ofyl says:

      Well, since I can’t usually make myself get up at the crack of dark – I get my focus time in a little later. It doesn’t matter when it gets done, as long as it gets done!

  18. melody says:

    It’s so true how we’re so accustomed to being reachable 24/7. It’s really amazing how much I get done when I don’t “check” my iphone. LOVE it!

    • ofyl says:

      I have one client who hands me her blackberry at the beginning of every meeting we have. I can ignore it, and she doesn’t have to worry about it.

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