Jedi Productivity 3 of 11: Deal with Darth Vader’s Evil “Urgent” Interruptions

This post is part of the Star Wars Jedi Productivity blog post series.  There will be 11 posts coming weekly every Tuesday for… yes… just counted it… the next 11 weeks.  These posts will guide your journey from a wilful, novice young pretender who is controlled by time…  into a magnificent Jedi who uses time as her own power.  The full set of posts are available from here.


Deal with Darth Vader’s Evil “Urgent” Interruptions

“You can’t manage time. You manage yourself” Joseph Ferrari

Ok, so you’ve got some initial goals written down.  They might cover areas such as Health, Peace of Mind, Relationships, Money, Contribution and Spirituality.  Or they might not.  Those categories serve me… no guarantee that they serve you.

Ding.  Ding.  Your email inbox is letting you know that it has something.  First email is from twitter with an update of some “interesting” messages you “might have missed”.

You know that this is distraction, and you delete.

Next email is from you boss.  He says “please meet me at 12:00”.  No agenda, no questions, no homework.  What do you do?

We are interrupted nearly every three minutes, according to Gloria Mark, professor at University of California. The scary thing is that about 50% of those interruptions are self-imposed.

Photo Credit: JD Hancock via Compfight cc
Luke takes on an Evil Interruption. Photo Credit: JD Hancock cc

Everybody has a plan until they are hit in the face

Mike Tyson, the world champion heavyweight boxer, in an interview was told that a future contender “had a plan to fight him.”  Mike replied to the interviewer: “Everybody has a plan until they are punched in the mouth.”

A diet is an easy concept to understand.  The challenge is not in knowing that you want to diet, or knowing that you will not eat carbohydrates… the challenge comes when the waiter walks over and says “dessert?  we have chocolate cake…”

Tony Blair said that leadership is about saying “No”.  Anybody can say “yes”, it takes real leadership to say “No”.  This doesn’t mean that you say “No” to everything and everybody – but it does mean that you raise the cost to yourself of saying “yes” to another person’s request.  (Each yes is a donation of your time and energy to somebody else’s goals).

3 Small Changes to Deal with Evil Interuptions

  1. Take control of the first 10 minutes of your days.  Do something important that is written down on your goals list.  Do not open email.  Do not open facebook.  Do not check twitter.  Do not go straight out for coffee.  Do not pass go.  Do 10 minutes of real, important, on-my-written-list-of-goals work.  Use the Pomodoro technique, especially the first 15 minutes of your day.  (I am writing this post first in my day, not planning to write it mid-afternoon).  How many pomodoro’s do you think you could do in a day?
  2. Make it harder to contact you.  My mobile phone is on silent.  I have no voicemail enabled.  I switch off all “push” settings on my phone (don’t buzz and tell me that something has happened).  There is a software that allows you to send mails that wait 2 hours before really sending – breaking the ping-pong email chain habit.  I go out to coffee shops with my laptop to write.  I stay at home to write.  I know that I am bad at saying “No” directly, so I need to reduce the opportunities that people have to be able to ask me for things directly.  I know that you will be wise and know how to apply this rule in your own specific setting.  (My friends were the first to notice my change from always-on email to delayed response…  “hey don’t you love me anymore?”).  Could you try waiting til 9:30am to open email?  
  3. Accept that Interruptions happen.  Interruptions are inevitable.  Some are wonderful opportunities, many are there to disrupt you.  Some are unforeseeable, others are systematic.  There are systematic interrupters – people at your office who always come by and say “lets grab a coffee” just as you are about to do important work.  There are systematic interrupters that you must make a steady effort to remove from your surroundings.  Accept that interruptions happen, and get back to what’s important as soon as you can.  Frustration does not make me more effective.  What is one systematic interruption that you could start removing from your day?

How to respond to the email from your boss?

One option is wait til 12 and see what it is all about.  Is that a good option?  Another option is to reply with a “No.  I am busy”.  Is that a good option?

A third option is see that you have 3 hours until 12:00 and right at the top of your goals list is your number 1 most important goal.  You pull out a sheet of paper and begin to plan what you will need to achieve this goal.  You make a list of the steps, end-to-end from here until you have reasonably completed the goal.  You make a list of the questions you need to answer, the decisions that you will need to make, the resources that you don’t know how to get.  When you have this list complete, you take the top item and begin working on it.  3 hours later you have a full plan, and have already nailed the first 4 items.  You have a feeling of accomplishment and progress.  You head over to the meeting with your boss.

Goodbye Ad-Hoc, Hello Systematic

Jedi Productivity Posts
  1. Jedi Productivity Presentation
  2. Jedi Productivity 11 of 11: We need you. The Jedi must Prevail over the Evil Empire and why you matter
  3. Jedi Productivity 10 of 11: ”Luke! you switched off your targeting computer!” making time for yourself
  4. Jedi Productivity 9 of 11: Yoda’s first rule: Do or do not, there is no try
  5. Jedi Productivity 8 of 11: How the Death Star commander runs his Hyper-effective Meetings
  6. Jedi Productivity 7 of 11: R2D2, C3PO and the Power of Delegation

In order to be a full Jedi time manager, the novice must learn to use proven tools such as:

  • Prioritising
  • Goal Setting
  • Deadlines
  • Delegation
  • Planning

That’s what this post series is all about.  You will become a master of the force and a power user of the tools of systematic, habitual action.

Are you a Jedi guided missile?  Are you systematic in how you set goals and make daily progress on what is important?  Or, are you more of an ad-hoc novice?

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2 responses to “Jedi Productivity 3 of 11: Deal with Darth Vader’s Evil “Urgent” Interruptions”


  2. […] Get out of the habit of ad-hoc interruptions. This is a great little primer for anyone who thinks that ad-hoc interruptions are OK. […]

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