How to Make Your Highest and Best Contribution

What if being more intentional about when you’re accessible could amplify your contribution 10x?

Perhaps it’s time to schedule your interruptions.

Did you know that interruptions are a big deal? In fact there’s a whole scientific discipline focused on them…Interruption Science is the “scientific study concerned with how interruptions affect human performance, and the development interventions to ameliorate the disruption caused by interruptions” (Wikipedia).

One study by Gloria Mark at the University of California, Irvine showed that it takes 25 minutes for us to recover from an interruption and get back to where we were before the interruption happened. (More on how distractions take up more time than we think)

And…we are interrupted approximately every 11 minutes.

Yep. That means we’re in a constant state of disarray.

I recently transitioned from leading a team into an individual contributor role. The struggle to re-balance my calendar is real.

Don’t misunderstand – when I was a people manager, I was still responsible for my own deliverables. However, I spent the majority of my day interacting with my team or others.

Now, I find that large blocks of uninterrupted time are essential to deliver to commitments.

Uninterrupted time is also essential for us to process all the raw material that comes at us in a day. We are barraged by information and we take it all in.

Yet, our effectiveness rests in the meaning we make with that information.

And, then…the action we take once we’ve made meaning.

Stillness and time to think is not a luxury.

It’s essential to our success.

If you don’t have it, you must find it.

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, is a well-known champion for the importance of scheduling nothing. And, I ask…if a CEO can manage to keep a few hours free, why can’t we?

“But, how?”, you ask.

I know…everything seems to be important.

It is.

But, that’s not the question.

The question is…”what’s essential?”

As Greg McKeown writes in his book Essentialism, we must ask ourselves what problem we are trying to solve, what value we’d place on a certain activity if we hadn’t already begun, and how what we are spending time on ultimately maps to what we believe is core and critical to our goals. He offers graceful ways to say ‘no’ to things that aren’t essential, and pragmatic empathy to the challenges of developing this discipline.

This week, amplify your contribution with one of these experiments:

  • Schedule two 1-hour blocks of time per day for uninterrupted work (then turn off Slack, Email notifications, and put your phone away).
  • If texts come in frequently, turn your phone over and tell your spouse/partner/family members to call you if there’s an emergency. Answer all texts at 10am, 3pm and 6pm.
  • Take a walk: change the scenery and disconnect. This ‘moving meditation’ opens your brain to new ideas and you’ll likely solve a challenge or figure out your next step faster than if you stayed at your desk.

Take control of the interruptions and find freedom to deliver at your highest and best. For more tips on creating ‘stillness’, check out Piyo Iyer on the Super Soul Conversations podcast posted 9/25/2018.

2 thoughts on “How to Make Your Highest and Best Contribution”

  1. Oh, this is so true! I feel that 25-minute derailment acutely when I wander off task. It takes so much self-discipline, but recently I’ve been blocking large, focused chunks of time for specific projects. Tasks take less time to complete and I am feeling less overall stress. I’m going to give those scheduled text reply times a try! Love the whole concept of making my “highest and best contribution”…. Thank you.

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