It's confession time. I do not handle interruptions very well. This includes when I'm working, reading, talking, or pretty much any time when I'm in the middle of something. When my mind is active and focused on something, interruptions are very unwelcome.
What about you? How do you handle interruptions?
As an INFJ, you don't like to be interrupted—especially when your mind is "elsewhere." Due to our Introverted Intuition, we prefer to be "elsewhere," allowing our minds to assemble patterns and trends that have future implications. This intuition works best in a quiet environment that's free of interruptions.
An outside interruption pulls you out of that interior space of your mind. You may struggle to get back to where you were after the interruption. You may even struggle to start something if you anticipate being interrupted.
For example, I sometimes struggle to start something new when I have a chunk of time before an appointment or meeting. On the surface it seems like I have 30 minutes to an hour to check something off my to-do list. Yet my mind doesn't see it that way. It fast-forwards to the cut-off time when I'll be "interrupted." It takes some time for me to get in the flow of certain kinds of tasks, and I do not want to be interrupted once I'm in the flow.
If you're thinking yes, yes, YES...you're not alone.
This experience is highly common among the INFJ women I coach. Your life stage and circumstances may mean you're more likely to be interrupted without notice. Even if you have no kids and work at home (like me), you face interruptions daily.
How do you respond when you're interrupted? If you're like me and the clients I coach, the interruption might lead to irritation, frustration, or even anger. Those feelings might be followed by guilt for getting irritated or angry—especially if the interruption came from your loved ones.
So let's look at how you can manage two different kinds of interruptions—those that are already scheduled and those that are unexpected.
No matter what kind of work you do (office, remote, entrepreneur, service, stay-at-home parenting, etc.), you will experience scheduled interruptions. These are things that are already planned and will require you to stop what you're doing and switch to a new task. These things can cause a serious productivity issue if you struggle to get started in anticipation of the scheduled event.
Before I got serious about this area of my productivity, I noticed that I could lose hours in a week simply by refusing to start something because I was going to be interrupted anyway. So how can you deal with the scheduled interruptions in your life?
Batch your tasks!
As much as your circumstances allow, batch certain tasks together. The way this looks will depend on your situation, but it might mean scheduling all appointments or meetings on the same day, or the same time of day. Even if you don't have much control over when these things are scheduled, consider the things you do that you can control.
In my business, for example, I've grouped the tasks I need to do each week into categories. Then, I decided which days I want to do each category of task. I need quite a bit of space to engage in creative tasks like writing and creating other content for INFJ women. For me, it doesn't work to squeeze those kinds of tasks in between appointments.
When I have thirty minutes or an hour of time that opens up before a scheduled interruption, I pull from my task list that doesn't require a lot of mental energy. These are random things that pop up that can be completed in 15 minutes or less.
If you struggle to start something new when you have a chunk of time before a scheduled interruption, think about the kinds of tasks you need to do each day. How can you group them and batch them so you can limit the interruptions that are pre-planned? What kinds of tasks can you do in the time you have before a scheduled interruption?
You can set yourself up for more success by batching your tasks and using the time before you know you'll be interrupted to do tasks that don't require you to get in the "flow." Yet what about when you're unexpectedly interrupted?
Take the opportunity to decide in advance how you'd like to respond. Let me be clear: I'm not talking about learning to like interruptions. It's more asking yourself: how do you want to respond when unplanned interruptions happen?
One way to prepare for unscheduled interruptions is to tell yourself upfront that you may be interrupted. Reminding yourself of this possibility may take some of the surprise out of the interruption and might have the power to lessen your irritation.
Even if you don't prepare or anticipate possible interruptions, you can decide ahead of time how you want to respond. When you're unexpectedly interrupted, I encourage you to consider the following in your response:
Acknowledgment simply means taking notice. To recognize. To admit. Acknowledge the situation—that you were interrupted. Acknowledge your feelings. You can think, "I was interrupted and I feel frustrated." Or, "I was really focused and I'm being pulled away from the work I wanted to do." Acknowledge with curiosity and not judgment. Your feelings are not right or wrong, they just are. They're the result of how you think about the situation. We'll get to that in a minute....
It can help to take a moment to validate both the situation and your feelings about it. You will feel a certain way about this moment because of how you see the situation. Allow yourself to normalize your feelings. Validation doesn't mean that you justify your response—as in determining it was the right or wrong way to respond. No, validation means to recognize that you felt the way you felt because of how you interpreted the situation. While you acknowledge the situation, you validate your feelings. So for example, you might say, "Of course I felt frustrated because I don't like being pulled out of the flow." Or, "Based on the way I'm built and the way I prefer to work, it's perfectly natural for me to feel angry or resentful when I'm interrupted."
Now that you've admitted how you feel and you've validated your response, you can consider reframing. This is a skill in which you choose to look at your situation differently. It doesn't change what happened (that you were interrupted), but it gives you the power to decide how you want to view the interruption. Even though you did not want to be interrupted, it happened. What would you like to do with that information? How would you like to view the interruption so that it doesn't ruin your day? And, I know this might be stretching it a bit, but what good might come from this interruption?
You may not be able to control when some interruptions happen. The thing you can control is how you want to respond. You're not at the mercy of your feelings. You can teach yourself to respond differently by thinking about the interruption differently. Again, I'm not talking about learning to like or love the interruption. But once it happens, you get to decide: how will you spend your energy?
What do you think? How do you deal with interruptions? If your current response is not working for you, what changes do you want to make?