Go Ahead, Give Them the Finger and Finish Your Thought!

September 4, 2007

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That’s if we’re talking about the “just a minute, let me finish my thought” finger.

Preferably, this would be your index finger, but use whichever you think you can get away with. It’s probably best to save “tall man” for the commute home anyways (kidding of course).

It’s ridiculous how often¬†we allow ourselves to be interrupted right in the middle of a thought. Whether we’re composing an email, finishing a report, or whatever - these interruptions cost valuable time. Why?

Because changing your mental context slows productivity in two important ways:

First, it’s very easy to lose your place entirely. You might be working on something extremely important, and not get back to it for hours or even days.

Second, it takes time to recreate your “pre-interrupted” mental context. That is, it takes a while to “ramp back up” to get into the same frame of mind you were in before the interruption.

Let’s use reading a book as an example: What happens when you’re halfway through a book, and it’s time to stop? Do you just shut the book and try to figure out where you left off latter? Of course not! Most of us bookmark where we left off helping us know the very spot we stopped when it’s time to resume reading.

We should do the same thing when we’re interrupted. Interruptions are unproductive enough; failing to bookmark makes them even worse!

So how do we “bookmark” our thoughts? The easiest way is to keep a notepad on your desk at all times. When you’re interrupted, pause to quickly jot down your last thought before handling the interruption. That makes getting back on track much easier.

So the next time you’re interrupted, give them “the finger”, and finish your thought …¬†before handling that next interruption!

That’ll keep you more in control of your attention, and you’ll get more done.

(Originally posted 06/25/07, reposted with audio 09/04/07)
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2 Responses to “Go Ahead, Give Them the Finger and Finish Your Thought!”

  1. on June 21st, 2007 10:30 am


    The idea of capturing your thought before you respond to an interruption is great! I often allow myself to be interrupted and then lose what I am doing.

    On another note, I would like your thoughts on how to end a conversation, politely, so that I can get back on task.



  2. on June 25th, 2007 11:29 am

    Hey Joe,

    Thanks for your comments. As far as how to end a conversation, that

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