Sally' s been sitting at her computer terminal for 3 hours without a break. She' s been engrossed in a report she' s writing and the time is passing quickly. She' s come to a stopping point and glances at the clock.
"Four o' clock. Wow. I didn' t know it was so late. I need to stretch. I' ll get a cup of coffee." On her way to the coffee room she passes Brenda' s desk. Brenda is just getting off the phone. Sally pops in.
"Hi, Brenda. How ya' doing?"
"Fine. I' ve just got so much to do."
"I know how that is. I' ve been working late on that report for Simmons for the last week and I' m still not done. But last night I needed a diversion so I saw this great video, ' Top Gun.' Have you seen it? It' s about this gorgeous fighter pilot. He gets to go to the top fighter pilot training school in the country, but he keeps getting into trouble because he' s a maverick. In fact, that' s his code name. Once he had to disobey orders in order to..." On and on she goes while Brenda keeps thinking of all the data she needs to enter and process.
Is Sally totally oblivious? Is she an unconscious bore? Why doesn' t she leave when Brenda just said she was swamped?
Because Sally needs some contact with people after working at her computer terminal for so long. In Megatrends John Naisbitt coined a term, "high-tech/high-touch" Naisbitt believes that the more high-tech (i.e., working alone on a computer) interactions we have in our lives, the more we need to balance those with high-touch (i.e., being with people) interactions. Most of us have a need for human interactions.
The term "high-touch" isn' t literal-you don' t need to hug your colleagues after a day on the computer (although it might feel good). Satisfying conversation is an example of high-touch."
The length of time one can work at a computer terminal before needing some interaction with people varies widely, depending on personality and circumstances. Sometimes it may only be an hour-at other times, a full day or more.
If you work on a computer terminal for long periods, check your own high-touch clock. You may recognize the symptoms of needing a physical release as neck aches, eye strain, headache, or sore backside. These symptoms can trigger the need to move around and also, often, the idea to talk with someone.
Log your urges for people interaction for a few weeks and see what the balance between high-tech and high-touch is for you. When you' ve gathered sufficient data, then you can schedule that needed people time. If you know you' ll be working on the terminal all day, say, and your high-tech limit is 1/2 hours, then plan to take your break with a friend. Set a time limit for your high-touch breaks-and stick to them.
Share this article with others at work and discuss how everyone can minimize their interruptions with each other. Agree on some signals that will tell the interrupter it is not a good time to talk. Some groups use signs like "Please do not disturb" or "Thank you for not interrupting." Others find verbal phrases more effective, like "I' m under a bit of pressure right now. Could we discuss this at another time?" If these signals are agreed upon ahead of time, the interrupter is likely to leave without getting upset.
Be honest and assertive with your chronic or inappropriate interrupters. They are probably not aware that they are bothering you or keeping you from something. Most people want you to say something rather than let them rattle on if it' s not a good time. Don' t expect them to mind read-they won' t. And many people won' t pick up on the subtle body language messages you send trying to tell them this is not a good time.
Understanding that your colleagues' interruptions may be a way they are fulfilling their high-touch/high-tech needs will help you have more patience with the chronic abusers, but you should still let your needs be known. Don' t allow your work to be put off just because you understand what is happening. Again, see if you can schedule the socializing time, if that is what they are doing.
You can control many of the unwelcomed interruptions in your life. Be willing first to look at how you interrupt yourself and how you interrupt others.
As technology continues to rapidly affect our jobs, the need to balance our lives with "high-touch" increases. By understanding our needs in a technical environment, we can both get our work done and keep up with our colleagues' movie reviews.
© 1989 Morgan Seminar Group
Rebecca L. Morgan, CSP, is a dynamic speaker and seminarist. She is the author of four books, TurboTime: Maximizing Your Results Through Technology, Calming Upset Customers, Life's Lessons: Insights and Information for a Richer Life, and Professional Selling. For information on her speaking services, books, and tapes contact her at 1440 Newport Ave., San Jose, CA 95125, 408/998-7977, 800/247-9662, fax: 408/998-1742, rebecca@RebeccaMorgan.com, www.RebeccaMorgan.com. Please contact Rebecca for permission to reprint or repost this item.
Personal Productivity/Time Management | TurboTime | Customer Service | Professional Selling | Management/Communication | Training | Motivational
Morgan Seminar Group | 1440 Newport Ave. | San JosÚ, CA 95125-3329
(800) 247-9662 | (408) 998-7977 | Fax (408) 998-1742 | rebecca@RebeccaMorgan.com