If my count is correct, I began a new blog post four times yesterday. This morning, as I type my second sentence, I’m already further along than I got on the previous four.
Lack of focus? No. Writer’s block? Not this time. The clear and undisputed reason why my Monday blog is waiting until Tuesday to go up is interruptions. Dozens of people dropped by my office yesterday, sometimes knocking on the doorframe–my office door usually stays open–and sometimes just standing there until I noticed them.
Among the reasons for stopping by:
- “Can I leave my backpack in here while I go to lunch?”
- “Did I miss anything? I’m nervous about missing something.”
- “Check out my new iPad.”
- “Why is it never simple? Why can’t things just work the way they’re supposed to?” (this was unrelated to the iPad)
- “I left my backpack in the chapel. Have you seen it?” (apparently backpacks were a thing on Monday)
- “Do you have any candy?”
- “I have nothing to do, so I decided to come in here and talk.” (three of these)
There were others–more than I bothered to count, ranging from the very trivial to the very personal. All told, the interruptions took up almost my entire day.
Through the lens of good ol’ American productivity, Monday was wasted. I didn’t produce a single tangible artifact to justify my paycheck–no reports, no sermons, no meeting notes. If, as one of my former bishops suggested, outputs are the only things that matter, then I started off the week with a colossal failure.
Fortunately for me, however, my vocation is viewed through a more personal lens. If we pastors are to reflect the life and teachings of Jesus, then we have to take seriously his style of working. Rarely was Jesus too focused on a goal to stop for someone who needed help or healing or hope. If you want examples, read Mark 5 or Matthew 14.
Oftentimes, interruptions were his work.
I don’t think this principle applies just to religious endeavors. The annals of science, literature, politics, and a host of other disciplines are filled with stories of discoveries made because someone stopped to pay attention to what might easily have been classified as an obstacle to their goal. Interruptions aren’t necessarily impediments to the creative process. In fact, they may be necessary parts of it.
And so I’m trying to view my interruptors not as drags on my time, but as co-collaborators in our life-sized project. After all, it’s the intersections with one another that make our lives interesting.