Discussion on: Are interruptions really worse for programmers than for other knowledge workers?

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Michael Minshew

I honestly feel like its a personality and specific problem thing. My wife does a q/a project manager type role and she absolutely hates being interrupted as she has to carefully review and follow a person on screen for part of her job and the other part is walking through processes in her head and figuring who does what and where. She is not in a tech or programming role in the slightest and believes html = hotmail. She deals with it but often feels that a more interrupted day was fruitless because she wasn't able to finish or walk through her tasks and plans for the day.

When I was a call center supervisor It was extremely common for me too be talking to a customer about an issue, answering 1-2 team members question at once (Mute rocks) and fixing a 2nd customers problem all at the same time. I was really really good at this multitasking (partly due to my ADHD and the advantage it gives me in very high stress situations,dopamine ftw). It was so routine that it was almost laughable how many things i could handle at once.

Now that i'm doing development i'm the opposite, its really frustrating when i'm interrupted because i'm trying to walk through code or learn something complex and i have to focus really hard on things to keep everything in place in my head. I think it just depends on a persons personality, the job, what exactly is being done and the atmosphere.
I also have realized that the better i get at a concept the easier it is to bounce back and forth with minimal consequence.

I think the solution is to focus more on trusting people to do what they need to do while coaching and training them to stretch in their weak areas. Over time I see people interact with others more, be more responsible and choose isolation/collaboration when its appropriate because they have the freedom to do so and the education and buy in of the value of both systems.