Little Distractions Replace Big Ones

April 14, 2011

Chapter 9 – Communicating In Real-Time

During my first long conference calls I was very easily distracted. I never had this problem in the office since there was a lot of visual input to keep me focused. But over the phone long team meetings were deadly boring. This was a big problem since I really wanted to pay attention to the meeting.

I tried everything I could think of to remove all distractions. I closed the window shades, turned off my computer, and removed anything I could play with from my office. Nothing worked. The more I removed distractions the more distracted I would get. Around 90 minutes I would always start wandering around the room looking for something to occupy my excess attention. When that stopped working I expanded my wanderings to other areas of the house.

On one ill-fated day, in the middle of the third hour of a conference call, my eyes fell on an a box of supplies my wife had ordered for a craft project. With a glee I can only attribute to hours of staring at a blank wall, I opened the box and found it was filled with enough random junk to occupy me for the rest of the day.

I played idly with the spools of wire and small plastic tubes until I noticed a small deflated beach ball. This was perfect. I could blow it up and play with it for the rest of the meeting. Sure I didn’t have a mute button, but I was certain I could inflate the beach ball quietly and nobody would notice.

The plan worked great until I got to the end. My tongue was pressed into the plastic valve and I needed to move my finger to replace it over the hole so I could stop the air from escaping long enough to get the plug in. The maneuver seemed simple enough, but someone asked me a question just at the wrong moment and in my haste to answer the valve slipped causing a loud wet plllffffttt noise right by the mouth piece of the phone.

The meeting stopped dead and after a pregnant pause a teammate asked me, “Zack, did you just blow us a kiss?”” I stammered something about having sneezed and quickly moved to another topic. To this day I am cenrtain that nobody knew what was really happening and not a single person in the room believed the sneezing story.

Now I always keep a small Hacky Sack by the phone so I have something to do with my hands during long calls. I also bought a phone with an easy to use mute button. It was money well spent.

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