The home of Uncommon Sense: Providing Clarity, Promoting Intelligence

The Great Escape

In case you hadn’t noticed, we live in complex times. Possibly not as complex as will be the case in, say, the year 2047, but much more complex than was the case in 1847.

Many people find it difficult to stay productive. Many people are spinning their wheels. Many people go through the motions in terms of their work but have little to show for their efforts. Why is that?

I will give a partial answer, and one that won’t satisfy or apply to everyone, and for that I apologize. I say that because working moms with small children, for example, probably cannot do what I am going to advise. And if you work at a call center all day, this probably won’t apply to you either.

Who it will apply to are people that do more complex work, that do what Peter Drucker would refer to as “Knowledge Work,” who use their brains to bring about high-quality results (well aware that such a description could be equally said of mothers who stay home to raise their children – perhaps the most important work on earth). Those types of workers may not be tied to their desks every working hour.

All I can do is share an idea and for those of you who find it applicable, you are the ones who should implement what I am going to say.

As a consultant, I have many clients. My biggest client, which gets the biggest share of my energy, has a dedicated workspace for me. I am surrounded by other people who also have a very similar workspace – a cubicle, a desk, an office chair, a computer docking station with multiple monitors, a metal cabinet with shelf space and file drawers, another table, a small white board, a laptop, and another smaller file cabinet on wheels with a smaller drawer for office supplies. OK, that’s the layout.

I love my work, and I’m doing the best work of my career for this client. They trust me to get the job done and so far they are impressed with my output.

However, I am now taking on higher-level projects that stretch me. They demand a greater level of ingenuity and output. A lot is riding on the results that I am working to achieve, and I refuse to fail my client.

Truthfully, I notice that not everyone around me is sensitive to the results I must deliver on.

What does that mean?

It means that, as happens everywhere else, there are interruptions. People who have their own agendas and their own expectations often come by my cubicle to talk to me about this or that. . . Some of them are long-winded. Some of them lack focus. Some of them are all over the place. Things that could have been said in 17 words get said in 730 words. Things that should have taken less than two minutes to convey eat up 37 minutes. Being a team player, and seeing the value in not alienating others, I patiently listen, but that comes with a cost – my own productivity can be in jeopardy if I’m not careful.

What to do?

Here’s the answer that works for me: I escape.

I’m dead serious. I literally grab my laptop and I disappear. I’m simply no longer there. I’m in a far away part of the building in a conference room, isolated, focused, and producing results.

I can’t prove it, but I’m certain the same people that love to monopolize my time with matters that fall under their agenda (not mine) come by my workspace intending to take up my time with the things they wish to talk about. Oh well; I was nowhere to be found. I was taking responsibility for my own environment and for my own results. If it’s that important, such persons can send me a brief, succinct, email. I’ll respond in a timely manner.

I am actually finding it liberating to escape. I look at the calendar, I make note of any meetings I am expected to be in, I decide whether I should show up in person or patch-in online, and when I see blocks of discretionary time, I use those moments to simply slip away. I become a phantom. I’m gone. I can’t be interrupted if I can’t be found. If it’s truly an urgent matter, such a person can always send me a text message or call my mobile phone.

We need to guard our time! Even when writing this column, I received a text message from a colleague asking me to call her. She’s an entrepreneur just like me. It’s 10:30 PM as I type this. I knew if I called her, we might be on the phone for up to an hour discussing a business matter. I texted her back and told her I was at my office and unless it’s urgent, I will be happy to call her when I leave my office and head home. Talking to her while driving is a much wiser use of my time than interrupting the work I am doing writing this piece. . .

That’s the attitude successful people take. They guard their time. They are responsible for their productivity. They take results very seriously, and they don’t allow for excuses.

So if you are able to, engage in the “Great Escape” whenever you need to. It is liberating. And it nullifies unnecessary interruptions, one of the great productivity killers.

Ara Norwood is a multi-faceted and results-oriented professional. Spanning a multiplicity of disciplines including leadership, management, innovation, strategy, service, sales, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. Ara is also a historian, having special expertise on the era of the founding of our republic.
Skip to content