I always get irritated if I’m in conversation with someone and their phone rings …and they take the call. It says to me that they’re thinking: “the chances are, this call is more important or interesting to me than you are, even though I don’t know who it is”. Underlying this, however, is something which may be fundamentally worse: those people are letting others set the agenda.
To take another example, our business lives are being increasingly driven by email, and those of us who suffer from that need to have a good think about whether that’s a desirable state of affairs. Now, I don’t know about you, but I start each working day enthusiastically aiming to get stuck into a certain task. And what happens? I sit down at my computer, and start answering emails. I’ve immediately let other people set the agenda.
Now, we all have clients, customers and managers who have important claims on our attention. But those people also expect us to do our jobs well. Next time somebody calls and says: “Did you see my email just now?”, you shouldn’t feel guilty for saying: “Not if it was sent in the last half an hour”.
(I just wrote this in 20 minutes at the start of the day, without having looked at my email inbox. It felt great.)