Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Please, Interrupt Me [Slow Down Challenge: Day 4]

Note: This week, I’m writing a series of challenges to help you (and me) slow down and savor the good parts of life. Find out more about it here, and make sure you’re signed up for email updates so you don’t miss a thing.

I don’t have to tell you about busyness. Chances are, if you’re like me, that as you read this someone or something is going to interrupt you.

Interrupt me

Photo Credit: Susan NYC via Compfight cc

Maybe it’s your kid wanting breakfast or your smartphone buzzing with a new notification. Whatever it is, we all live with these everyday occurrences that call us out of the zone and into the world.

For the longest time, I thought these interruptions were bad. I thought they were keeping me from the “plan.” But now I have a different perspective:

What if the things we consider inconveniences are the very tools used to help us grow?

Every time I’ve waited for something BIG in my life, I’ve been disappointed by the outcome — or at very least, surprised.

The reason is we weren’t meant to live like that, bouncing from one big thing to the next. When your journey is more about destinations than the points in between, the arrival rarely measures up to your expectations.

The lessons of interruptions

We need to learn to fall in love with the whole process of life, not just a particular event. One way to do this is by welcoming, not dreading, the interruptions.

These include flight delays, long traffic lights, and even that needy person who takes up more conversation than you had originally planned for.

Why do we need to surrender to these moments that frustrate us to no end? Because:

  • They teach us to let go of control.
  • They remind us life is not just about “me.”
  • They help us become more patient.

So the next time you wake up six times at night to a teething baby, remember to be present. The next time your colleague “just wants to talk,” listen. The next time an opportunity to hang out with a friend or spouse comes, take it (even if you’re under a deadline).

No one should be too busy to spend time with the people that matter most. And nobody is too important to make a new friend.

The legacy of your life will not be judged by how many emails you responded to or how well you maximized your lunch break. It will be measured, I believe, by how interruptible you were.

How often did you let the world pull you away from yourself so you could focus on others? That’s the question we need to answer.

Challenge: Let go

The antidote to restlessness

When we try to control everything, when we plan every last minute of the day, we get mad at life for throwing a wrench in our plans. When the hotwater heater breaks. When your kid gets the flu. When your boss has a “favor” to ask.

But what if we expected these interruptions? What if we counted on them, deciding ahead of time how to act in these instances? Here’s your challenge:

  1. Decide what you will do and who you will be WHEN you get interrupted. You don’t have to let people steal your time, but choose your response before it happens.
  2. Block out time to spend with a person who usually interrupts you. Call her just to chat; if local, ask her to lunch.
  3. When an interruption occurs, welcome it. Look for what you can learn from the experience, and don’t get annoyed. Instead, embrace this as a chance to grow.

I’m not saying you should let people walk all over you or neglect everything you need to get done. But I am saying this:

We don’t become who we’re supposed to be by checking off one more thing on the to-do list. The path to legacy comes to those who help others, who make time for interruptions.

Those are the people we remember. And that’s the kind of person I want to be.

For more about learning from interruptions, check out my new book, The In-Between, which is a call to use the lesser times more wisely (it’s currently 40% off on Amazon).

What lessons do you learn when you get interrupted? What kind of person would you like to be when someone interrupts you? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • septemberanne

    Great inspiration and challenge! Selfishness will never bring lasting success. Thanks Jeff!

  • My children tend to be my biggest interruptions. In fact I was interrupted in the middle of reading this post. 🙂 They are just helping me out with this challenge. LOL I’ll embrace my interruptions today and be patient when they interrupt me in the midst of a major project (like my manifesto which I’m determined to write another 500 words on today.)

    • I was interrupted while writing it… a few times. 🙂

  • This is an important point for sure, but I think we need to carefully consider which interruptions we will accept otherwise I’d never get anything done! Just yesterday though, I was running behind and had just a 30 minute window to get work done. As soon as I sat down and old friend called, I somewhat grudgingly took her call, but was so glad I did. It was a short conversation and she had some wise words for me that helped me in my writing work. Your very point I believe.

    • I think you’re right, Tracy. Great example! (And yes, that was the point.)

  • I need to work on this in a major way. I’m afraid I usually see interruptions as such an intrusion on whatever I’m doing. I’ll do my best to try to welcome them instead. I can see how doing that could make a huge difference. Thanks for the wake up call, Jeff.

    • Thank YOU, Cheryl, for reading. All the best!

  • My One Word this year was “inconvenience”. At the end of last year, I felt the Lord calling my to pray for inconvenience in my life. That’s about as scary as praying for patience! It’s been quite a year. But there’s been so many lessons learned and beauty seen.

    Oh and did you mean to put inconveniences here: ” What if the things we consider conveniences are the very tools used to help us grow?”

    • Yep. Fixed. Sorry. :-/

      • Debbie

        I kind of liked the convenience thing…but I suppose I must surrender to the real point and accept that it really is the inconveniences that help us grow (they often turn out to be some of the most wonderful blessings).

  • i want to be interruptible!! it’s so contrary to my nature, but that’s the great thing about it — just another opportunity to surrender so that it’s not i who live, but Christ. thx for the challenge, jeff.

  • This has been really brought home to me the last few weeks as we prepare to pull up stakes in New England and move to TN. We have made the time to spend time with friends and family, even though logically we could say we don’t have time. Like you say, though, the relationships and interruptions matter. I’ve always reminded my daughters and myself: Remember, the message is love.

    • Moving to TN?! How’d I miss this? Awesome.

      • Yup. NH to Knoxville. From the snowy, cold northeast to much milder, warmer south east. Yippee! Looking back, I see this move as another in-between, albeit a very, very long one.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    As an admitted multi-tasker… often an interruption is just one more thing to juggle – so the challenge for me is to not try to manage it – but to give it my focus completely. (I’m hoping this is not a prophetic word today, as we travel over a mountain pass in the midst of construction and delays… but if it turns out to be so – I will have already planned how I will handle it… but I may not exactly be thanking you right away!)

    • Admitting it is the first step towards recovery. 🙂

      • Karrilee Aggett

        LOL! So true! I’ve been enjoying the Slow Down Challenge this week, as it has reminded me that I often find myself doing three different things at once – unaware. (Hello, my name is Karrilee…)

  • The other night I *needed* to pack for a move out of town THE NEXT DAY. A group of college students (new freshman, returning sophomores) wanted to come over tell me good-bye. These are kids I’ve loved deep and wide the past six years. There were a thousand things I “needed” to be doing…and they got done from 11-2:30am, after my young friends were gone.

    Their love, visit (and even prayers) were much more important than packing….

  • InvisibleSun

    Soon after reading your post, I had the opportunity to put your advice/challenge into action. I’m sure every parent can relate to turning off the water from a relaxing shower and hearing the screams of a child (regardless of age) come forth in the background for whatever reason. Today my relaxing shower came to an abrupt end when I heard my daughter crying nearby. Immediately I felt a sense of ‘what now?’ come over me … but quickly caught myself and knew I had an opportunity to diffuse this situation by keeping my reaction in check. Just taking a deep breath and not resisting what was happening by genuinely listening to why her big brother was upsetting her helped me quickly redirect my daughter’s frustration into contentment!

  • Toni Stewart

    I have a husband, seven children and a long haired chihuahua. Most of the time I ignore the dog. I stopped once (a while ago) and patted her on the head. She went bezerk! Now when she gets whelmed she feels at liberty to crawl underneath me. Its kinda cool.

  • We might as well face it, life is full of interruptions. It is how you handle the interruptions when they come. Last week our lives were interrupted. My wife suddenly got sick and had to have emergency surgery and our week and the next couple of weeks was and will be interrupted. Instead of getting upset and worrying, we stepped back and put things in proper perspective. We appreciate our life and time together with family and friends. I appreciate you writing about this topic. I learned years ago to use the interruption moments to grow and serve.

  • MariJean

    “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” ~GK ChestertonOne of my favorite quotes. Great reminder!

  • Mae

    This is excellent. I am only now beginning to see interruptions the same way, as events to grow from. Learning to enjoy the process towards “it”, whatever that might be for each of us, is one of the best bits of advice I’ve ever heard. It is all about the journey and the scenery on the way. Thanks Jeff.

  • Often, feeling something is inconvenient is the exact sign that I SHOULD be doing it.

    I’ve been setting times I’m not allowed to be interrupted from the most important people, my wife, son and daughter. If an emergency interruption were to come up, then hopefully it’s a time we can serve that need together.

  • Jeffrey Agar

    When I am so preoccupied with myself that is when I miss the opportunity in the interruption. The opportunity to help someone, the opportunity to be used by God, the opportunity to listen.

  • I like the advice to think ahead and decide how you will react to interruptions. It beats the heck out of an exaggerated sight. Or snapping at someone.

  • My time doesn’t belong to me, any more than my possessions do. When I’m upset by an interruption, I realize that I still think I own my time. Great timing for this series, Jeff. I’m learning to let go of more so I can have more joy in return.

  • Kirbie Earley

    This is the story of my life – has been for quite some time, but more so since my first grandchild was born Christmas 2011. You cannot get back the moments with loved ones. My kids are always saying “sorry we are taking up all of your time” – this mostly comes from my daughter with 1 year old twin girls. I can’t get it through her head that I LIKE the texts “hey what’cha doing in an hour? I need to run to the store” or “do you mind babysitting while we go out to dinner?” The answers are “I’m never doing anything that can’t be interrupted for my kids” and “absolutely I will babysit so you can have couple time”.

    Great post! Something everyone should remember!

  • I used to be really good w/ interruptions. I welcomed the opportunity to connect with other people and help them w/ whatever they needed.

    Lately though, work has gotten more stressful and I’ve allowed that to narrow the invisible blinders on my head. I wear earbuds at my desk. I don’t interact w/ coworkers as much. And if someone stops by it’s difficult to reign in the annoyance.

    (In my defense if you send an email then swing by my desk w/in 5 minutes to follow up — you need to be more patient.)

    However, at home I welcome distractions from LK and the kids. I haven’t shared it explicitly, but whatever they need my “door” is always open to them. There is always more work. There is not always more time.

  • Shannon

    This is a really great idea. Not ten minutes ago, I was talking to my husband about a friend who, even though I know she’s incredibly busy, always makes me feel like she’s got all the time in the world to talk. Makes me think of the Mama Duck analogy: she looks serene as she glides across the lake but paddles like crazy underneath!

  • I think the biggest lesson I learn when I am interrupted is who is more important, the person who is interrupted, or me. I think I’m getting better at it. I no longer roll my eyes or sigh. God is in the interruptions.

  • Julia

    I could just possibly be inspired by what is involved in the interruption. It just might also help me to relax or think about something I never thought about.
    I have been distracted lots of times lately, especially while I’m writing.
    Thank you for this post, Jeff. You’re my writing soulmate.

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  • Deborah Flora

    I’m blessed to be a stay-at-home mom and farmwife. My days are well punctuated with interruptions it seems! 🙂 I don’t always view them the right way for sure, but I was just recently reflecting on some lessons I feel like I’ve learned since I started blogging. My blog is bits and pieces of our life and I feel like through blogging I am learning to delight in the daily details. Many of which are simple everyday blessings, many which can feel like interruptions when I’m wanting to get something done and my husband needs a ride or needs me to go pick up tractor parts or my kiddos want to show me something etc. etc!!

    As I reflect on your post, life really truly is made up of interruptions if you will. I’ve been “interrupted” twice just as I type this!

    Blessings on your day {and on the interruptions in it}!

  • Linda

    I truly need to continue working on this. I tend to react badly whenever I have even a minor interruption. I am impatient and finally started noticing how I was snapping at loved ones whenever they called to say hi at work, or wanting to tell me something at home. I always feel very guilty afterwards, but wasn’t sure how I could control my temper.

    Now, whenever I feel an exasperated sigh coming or the rolling of my eyes, I try to catch myself and instead smile. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my attitude and that of my loved ones. They’ve probably been walking on eggshells around me for years! How terrible! I need to ask for their forgiveness, one more time…

    Thank you.

  • Juliann

    I just wrote about interrupting on my blog this morning. It is so awesome how this slow down challenge is mirroring the thinking I have been doing about my work lilfe. Thanks
    https://chasingstories.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/please-interrupt-me/

  • Debbie

    Jeff, I love the post and really look forward to reading the book. I think that this simple but no less profound truth can really and truly change lives. Our God is so very good at being present to us in each moment and He can really shine in those moments that we see as bothersome. Life is rich when its lived moment by moment — not achievement by achievement or check mark by check mark.

  • amandaO

    it was like this post was written exactly for me. i always feel that same way, about things taking me away from the ‘plan’; however, i felt pretty good at ‘getting through’ the interruptions…but this sentence was very convicting to me: We need to learn to fall in love with the whole process of life, not just a particular event. LOVE that. thank you.

  • Tracy Stella

    I learn just how much more I still need to grow in the area of exhibiting love and patience when I am interrupted. Good thing we are on a journey. I still have a ways to walk in this one.

  • Oh, you knew my personality and impatience with interruptions, especially those presented by the one I love the most in life, my husband! We have offices next to each other in our home. I’m the geeky one, hubby not so much. His tech problems always come in the midst of my writing when I’m really focused on what I’m doing. I know my frustration can be heard in my voice, so lately (before reading this actually) I’ve been trying to hide that frustration and take advantage of that moment together in front of his computer helping him figure out a problem or show me a new design he’s working on, or whatever. It’s all about focusing on him and his creativity at that point. Despite my frustration, I’m learning what excites him, motivates his creativity, and appreciating the fact that at 76 he’s still healthy and creative. Yes, I’m getting this thing even at 67!

  • Karen

    Thank you for Showing me or directing to the only one who can show me which way to go.

  • Kreena

    Loved the challenge again. I read a devotion once that called these interruptions “divine appointments” -love that. Sorry can’t remember the author. It really made me think of interruptions in a different way. The sentence that really spoke to me today in the challenge was “We need to learn to fall in love with the whole process of life, not just a particular event.” I am going to keep that in mind. Love the challenges so much I ordered your book on my Kindle.

  • I had a massive interruption that left me seething in anger. As I thought of the situation, I started to channel that anger into useful energy. The lesson that I learned from this experience is that “Leader Lean With the Bend”. You can read more on my blog.

  • Ashley

    Interruptions from people teach me (yes, I’m still learning) that my input and presence is valuable. My busiest teachers on this subject are my three kiddos.

  • Stephanie Nickel

    I have posted re: Days 3 and 4 on my blog today. It may sound excessive, but this challenge has been truly transforming. Life will take a new direction from here on in. My hope and plan is to more thoroughly live in the moment and value others as I ought. Thanks so much, Jeff. https://stephseclecticinterests.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/the-slow-down-challenge/

  • I love the idea of already having a plan in place for how I want to feel and react to inevitable interruptions of life. More great discussion fodder for my Creating Time for Your Creative Oasis classes. Thanks, Jeff! https://creativeoasiscoaching.blogspot.com

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