Meeting, Interruption, Work. Meeting, Work, Interruption. ASAP!

Meeting, Interruption, Work. Meeting, Work, Interruption. ASAP!

I get most of my work done at night or early in the morning. I curl up on my couch with my laptop and answer emails, or I sit with my knees bent, reclining against my pillows and build reports, edit or research. And every other Wednesday, Work From Home Wednesday, is the most productive day of the week. Why? Because I’m alone. It’s quiet. I have no distractions. I’m not interrupted.

My friend Becca lent me the book, Rework, written by the founders of 37Signals. I don’t like it. Mostly because the tone is incredibly arrogant, but also because I can only truly relate to three of the five dozen or so chapters: “Interruption is the enemy of productivity;” “Meetings are toxic;” and “ASAP is poison.”

Interruption is the enemy

Raise your hand if this sounds like you: “Interruptions break your workday into a series of work moments. Forty-five minutes and then you have a call. Fifteen minutes and then you have lunch. An hour later, you have an afternoon  meeting. Before you know it, it’s five o’clock, and you’ve only had a couple uninterrupted hours to get your work done.”

It definitely sounds like me. In order for me to get things done, sometimes I literally have to lock myself in a conference room, or put in my noise cancellation ear phones and drown out the noise. Don’t get me wrong, I love working in an office full of bright, fun people. Collaboration is the strongest pillar of knowledge. But interruptions aren’t collaboration. They’re just interruptions. And when I’m constantly being interrupted, tapped on the shoulder, Skyped, I’m not getting work done.

To be fair, I can also be my own interruption. I’m constantly thinking of what I need to get done both personally and at the office. I need to buy shampoo. I need to pay my Comcast bill. I need to deposit the checks that have been sitting in my wallet for three months. Oooh, look! It’s Facebook! My turn to play Hanging with Friends. Oh, hi, Twitter! Was that a text?

Planes? Fantastic place to work. No Internet (unless you’re flying Virgin and then you’re screwed).

It takes self-discipline to really create your time of productivity. It takes turning your WiFi off, putting your phone on silent (so it doesn’t even buzz, nice try), putting on your headphones and focusing. Sometimes, we need to put the multi-tasking aside and really get.shit.done.

Meetings are toxic

I had a one-on-one with my boss the other day and I told him, “I’m going to master the 15 minute meeting.” His response? “When you figure out how to do that, let me know.”

Meetings are the worst kind of interruption.

They’re usually abstract. The first 10-15 minutes of every meeting is waiting for people to join, pull up the document at hand, and get situated.

And then we all talk in circles. There’s no real goal. They lack focus and drift off into other topics. No one knows what they’re supposed to do after the meeting. You can never get those 30 minutes to an hour back in your workday.

Imagine if every meeting was held like this:

The meeting organizer invited only the key people directly involved with the topic at hand.

The meeting organizer prepared a detailed agenda of what will be discussed on the call consisting of:

– Topic at hand/goal

– What needs to get done to achieve the goal

– Who is responsible for which aspects of achieving this goal

– Goodbye

Everyone in the meeting was paying attention (eliminate the noise, make meetings “no-laptop meetings”)

Everyone left knowing what the next steps were, who was responsible for each step, and when each step needed to be completed

Bliss, right? I’m going to try it.

ASAP is poison

Everyone wants everything yesterday. It’s impossible to prioritize when every single request made has “ASAP” tacked onto the end of it.

“ASAP is inflationary. It devalues any request that doesn’t say ASAP.”

Remember the story of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf?” Yeah, well if you’re one of those people who use the word ASAP in every request, the one time you actually do need something as soon as possible, everyone will treat that request like all of your others.

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  1. Lauren! I totally agree about the 37signals book. It has a handful of points that are relatable, but comes off as very gruff and arrogant. The three keys points you noted are the same for me.

    Oh, and let me know right after your boss if you figure out the 15-minute-meeting secret. ASAP. We can conference each other in to discuss 😉

    • I definitely will. I’m on a mission and I’m leading by example :)

  2. I know a great blog that has all kinds of time management tips that could help with some of the issues you raise. Here’s a link to a post on “Outcome First Meeting Plans” You’ve written a great post that’s providing a lot of food for thought! I think the issues you raise are shared by many. Getting control of our day is critical to our productivity. We may appear selfish or self-centered when we take control of our day, but people have to understand there is only so much time in a day and everyone has to set their priorities. Can be tough at first, but eventually the people around you will understand when you say “No” or “That time doesn’t work for me can we do it…”

    • Thanks! That link is great, and you raise great points. There is only so much time and we should all be respectful of each other’s. Isn’t there a Golden Rule or something like that? Thanks for the tips!!

  3. My gchat messages and emails about Twilight probably don’t help huh? Or maybe they do, because, really, there is ALWAYS time for Taylor Lautner’s abs.

    • You got that right. There is ALWAYS time for hot abs. And you. Always. 😉

  4. I love the points about meetings. They are such a time suck in my office. We get sidetracked, fall down rabbit holes and before we know it, it’s time to go home and we’ve accomplished absolutely nothing.

    • Totally. That’s why there needs to be an agenda (that’s actually upheld) and next steps addressed at the end!

  5. My biggest annoyance in the office is people who don’t know how to prioritize. Tasks absolutely can and should be given a priority. Not everything is a number 1 priority. I will always hate that.

    • Absolutely! That’s why ASAP is poison. Does this really need to be done ASAP? Prioritizing is key to not only getting actually important things done first, but also to our sanity…

  6. On one of my first days at my current job, my boss told me, “You’ll never get it all done. The work will be here tomorrow… Go home.” I know that’s not directly related but I felt the need to share it here anyway.

  7. This is an excellent post! I really feel exactly the same way. Working from home increases my productivity, my happiness, my quality of work, and I don’t even have to get out of my PJs. The only issue is, I really have a hard time not putting a load of laundry in the washing machine BECAUSE IT IS JUST GOING TO DO ITSELF. I forget that I also then have to take it out, hang it up, and then this interrupts me and I end up doing other things around the house “while I”m up anyway.”

    The post is really helpful because I’ve always had this missing feeling about why meetings drive me insane and never are productive…. Now I have a good format to follow and hopefully impose on everyone else!

    • Glad it was helpful for you! Working from home has its own distractions, too. I have two cats for example, and they don’t like to leave me alone! The same prioritization and task/time management works for working from home or from an office. Let me know how it goes!!


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