Close Your Door


I’m currently reading the book Indistractable by Nir Eyal. The book talks about how distractions impact our productivity and what we can do to stop them.

I’ve been thinking about how the principles in the book relate to my role as Principal. I’ve written before about the amount of fires that I am constantly putting out. It seems like every 5-10 minutes throughout the day, something sneaks up to steal my attention. The timestealers typically rob me of time when I could be doing something more productive or meaningful.

The question is whether these interruptions are actually emergencies or whether they are simply lesser “fires” that can wait. I’d guess that many of the “fires” are of the less than emergency kind. The book recommends providing uninterrupted time to work on important tasks or projects by providing a cue to others that you are “indistractable” at the moment.

For me, that cue might be shutting my office door. Normally, it’s open at all times, and as I work on something important, a head will pop around the corner and ask “Do you have a minute?” My answer has always been yes. I’m a firm believer in open doors. So when I close the door, most would anticipate the interruptions to subside. In many cases they do, someone sees the closed door and decides to come back later. However, some make themselves visible in the window of the door, and ask for time. Usually accompanied by “it will just take a minute,” even if it does, it takes me away from the focus I’ve been giving to a specific task. Switching between a variety of focuses equals lost time.

As I said, I’m a firm believer in open doors and visibility. I’d like to believe that I am easily accessible to colleagues when they need something. I think it’s also OK to close your door when trying to concentrate. And to avoid those closed door knocks, maybe a bright orange indistractable sign on the closed door will alert others that interruptions need to be true emergencies only.

Sometimes the task at hand is more important than a manufactured emergency.

It is OK to close your door sometimes.
It is OK to be indistractable.