Wick Communications

Dealing with distraction

In Management on June 3, 2011 at 5:22 am

Yesterday, I was trying to explain to the Daily Iberian’s Jeff Zeringue that I consider people a distraction … the kind of distraction that makes life worth living. The point of newspapering is to connect with people. We want to reach readers. We want to be friends with our colleagues. We want our work to bring together government officials, teachers, football coaches and everyone else in our communities.

Of course, people can also be a real pain when you are trying to get stuff done. The trick is having an open door you can figuratively close halfway in order to concentrate on the task at hand.

I’ve found that, when I’m about to need an hour or so of more or less uninterrupted attention, my best course of action is to take a leisurely stroll through the newsroom. I try to talk to everyone or at least make eye contact if they are on the phone or otherwise engaged. I want to give them the opportunity to catch me in hopes that they won’t need to do so in 15 minutes time. … A couple years ago, Half Moon Bay Review Publisher Debra Godshall got me a red baseball cap. She said that when I was wearing it, folks were supposed to leave me alone. That didn’t work so well, but it was a very nice gesture!

The walk-ins are more problematic. I bet you can tell me five people in your community who habitually walk in to chat at the least opportune time. These people are probably among your most loyal readers and best sources. You can’t simply shoo them out the door.

You probably already do what I do. Give them two minutes of small talk. And if they need more time, time that you don’t have at the moment, politely ask them if you can call them back at a set time. Most of the time, they’ll understand.

Now, can you get out of here? I gotta get back to work!

Clay

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  1. Actually, the red cap had the opposite effect and worked like a magnet. As soon as we all saw you wearing it we immediately thought of ten things we needed to ask. Pavlov’s dog …

  2. I always try to hear a person out, or answer that phone call, even if I’m neck-deep in a deadline. Mainly because what they have to say could be big news and I don’t want to miss it.

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