Who loves being interrupted all the time? Not me! That’s why I implemented 4 necessary changes in my routines.

Can you imagine that 80 to  90 percent of the stress we experience can actually be caused by ourselves? It is not because of coworkers who don’t respect the deadlines, or the trains that are either late or not running, or even your kid, who conveniently gets sick at the worst possible moment (or is it just mine?)

No, it’s inside your head. In your way of reacting to situations. In the capacity of shutting out irrelevant things and staying calm.

And finally,  in your ability to manage interruptions, to say no and to stay focused.

When I heard all of that for the first time, I felt the instant need to resist: that can’t be possible. It’s not me, it’s the circumstances / other people / I can’t help it. But in the end, I had to admit that there was a fragment of truth to that.

I did feel constantly stressed and overwhelmed. Even without any looming deadlines I had trouble winding down at the end of the day and getting the ever-rolling wheel of my brain to stop. And it was actually a relief to admit that I was a part of the problem, because that also made me feel like part of the solution.

I understood that I had no boundaries between my work and every impulse and thought that occured to me. When an email notification popped up on my screen while I was writing, I had to check it right away. This lead me to checking some facts I needed to reply, and from there to checking my social media feed and producing some content there. I jumped from task to task trying to solved everything at the same time.

Interruptions are the death of productivity. After an interruption, it takes up to 15 minutes to get back into the flow. All the interruptions in my day made it certain that I would not get to that blissful state of concentration even once.

Tired of this, I implemented four important changes to my habits:

  1. I turned off all notifications and set times when I would check emails, messaging apps etc. If there was something important, I did not necessarily have react to it right away but added it to my task list to be dealt with later.
  2. I started using my task list regularly. Every morning and in the beginning of the afternoon, I check what there is and establish the priorities. At the end of the week I define the main tasks of the following week, and every Monday morning I do the same thing again to make sure nothing has changed. Like this, I know I’m not forgetting anything important even though I don’t do everything right away.
  3. I created a recurring task in my task list, that reminds me every morning to dedicate 2 hours during the day for concentrated work. It’s a simple trick that prevents me from going to a tunnel-vision mode where I just attack one disaster after another. It tells me every morning: Remember, it’s important to take time for concentration.
  4. I meditate 10 minutes every day, ideally in the morning. Staying still for 10 minutes helps me get out of the hamster wheel that my days can become sometimes. It’s an important reminder, that I don’t always have to react to every impulse that pops into my head.

What I have yet to decrypt, is how to make this work in a community. How to create your own concentrated cocoon when working in a team. I would love to hear your tips in the comments.