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What is “Hot Potato Productivity?”

There are probably two types of people in this world, those who can engage in “Hot Potato Productivity” and those who can’t. This refers to one’s ability to stop working on non-emergencies, such as taking a walk, getting a snack, or answering the phone.

If this sounds like you, then you’re like Cris who can easily transition from deep work to taking a walk AND coming back ready to pick up where she left off. You’re more similar to Deb if, instead, you’ll likely need some time to find a good place to stop what you’re working on to do something else.

There’s no right or wrong answer here, only awareness about how you move through your day. Cris isn’t 100% sure that she can transition seamlessly from work to other things, but she’s mostly confident that that’s how it goes. Stay tuned for an update on if Cris is a true “Hot Potato” productivity lover!

It just takes time to get back in the groove

One of the reasons why Deb is so insistent on 10 more minutes to work is because it takes some time and (seemingly) more brain power to get back into the flow of things once you’ve stopped.

You can leave a reminder or a sticky note for guidance, but you still have to get back into the headspace of whatever you were working on and it may not be the same as before. For people like Deb, this makes their brain a tad bit unhappy.

Cris, on the other hand, has no problem getting back to work and if she could ever package this ability up and put it up for sale, Deb would be the first buyer.

Deb also makes it a point to ask whether or not it is a good time for someone to talk when she contacts them spontaneously. Mostly because of her own inability to “Hot Potato” tasks easily, so she considers this when interrupting others.

Don’t answer the phone if you’re busy

One of Cris’ pet peeves is when people answer the phone when they know they can’t talk. She feels that answering the phone is a courtesy and leaving a voicemail is perfectly fine if someone is busy. If the person picks up, however, there’s an assumption that a conversation will begin.

Deb also made some good points though, noting that many times people pick up the phone even when they’re busy because they like the person and they want to make sure it’s not an emergency. Insert the immediate, “Can I call you back?”

They may also be experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out) and they want to be included although they’re busy. In most cases, not answering the phone and calling them back when you have time is perfectly fine.

Moreover, it doesn’t help that technology has made everyone very accessible, creating expectations that someone should answer or reply immediately because they’re probably near their phone. This is where the person calling or texting can set aside those expectations and understand that everyone is different in terms of how they transition in and out of their work.

Honesty and transparency are key

Understanding first how you handle distractions is very important. If you’re like Deb and you need some more time, communicate that to the person who needs you. Be transparent about how much time you need and offer to catch up with them at a later time.

If you are engaged in deep work and absolutely can’t be distracted, try putting your phone in a different room. If you need to take it up a notch, try a timed lockbox from Amazon that Deb mentioned in this episode. You can set a time for how long you need to be away from your phone and it won’t unlock until time is up. The lockbox has other uses as well, such as during
dinner with your family.

If you still need help managing interruptions, check out our free download called “Top 5 Ways to Successfully Transition Between Tasks.”