Something that's been subliminally irritating me for months is that lack of a protocol for handling interruptions. Psychologically, I need a totally zen desktop to work with a clear mind. Stray paperwork is an anathema to me.
So when I would be processing paperwork and the phone would ring, I'd have a gnawing sense of anxiety about what to do with the paperwork I was just working on. Even though it's right in front of me, if I think about it at all when I'm on a phone call, I'm not fully present with the person on the other end of the line.
So I would throw it back into my in-basket and try to focus on the call, but that was never satisfying since it implied that an action hadn't been decided on it. Then I tried telling myself I'd leave the paperwork exactly where it was before the call, and that I'd return to it immediately afterward, but sometimes the call itself would become a priority, implicitly relegating the previous item to "stuff."
For a while this seemed like a relatively minor issue; I didn't even identify it as a problem. But the more keeping an empty head became a priority, the more I sensed how much of my focus was being pulled away by the very last thing I was doing before being interrupted.
So a couple of days ago I grabbed my labeller and created a folder called "On Deck" (a working title; I'll probably change it). Now whenever someone tries to grab my attention, I stick the interrupted paperwork in that folder, and know that I'll return to after the interruption has been addressed.
What amazed me was the sense of relief I felt afterwards. Now I can talk to people who've interrupted me and really listen to them instead of unconsciously resenting the interruption. This is especially important where I work, because the culture is one that refuses to use in-baskets (consistently), email, voicemail, or written notes to hand off work; and I'm bored with bemoaning the fact that they "don't get it." I needed to get my own house in order first.
Does anyone else have some best practices for dealing with interruptions (other than unrealistically trying to block them)?