Harnessing Disruption: An Interview with Bill Jensen

Disruption. It happens many, many times a day. You’re focused, you’re on task, and… the phone rings. A co-worker needs your opinion on something. Your text notification on your smartphone pings. You notice a cute cat video on Facebook.

The list goes on and on. Social media is a huge part of this: I call it “going down the rabbit hole.” I’ll jump online to check my feeds and schedule up some tweets, and bam! an hour later, I’ve not gotten any work done.

Can you resist watching this supercute YouTube video? This is a test!

This is a big issue for my work, because I’m self-employed. I don’t have external deadlines or a boss hanging over my shoulder asking if I got that thing done. I’ve developed systems for myself over the years, and one piece of advice I often give clients is to set a certain amount of time per day that you’re going to be on social media and stick to that. Have a timer if you need to. And have a plan. Spend an hour or so every week planning out what your blog posts, Facebook Posts and Tweets are going to be that week, so that when you’re online, you’re focussed and productive.

Today, I do an interview with Bill Jensen, author of  Disrupt! Think Epic. Be Epic. In it, Jensen offers insight into how we can harness daily disruptions for the sake of our careers – and sanity.

RC: There are so many disruptions today. Can you talk about the nature of disruption, just generally, for a moment?

First, a basic definition: A disruption is anything that changes the course of your daily routine or (if big enough) your life.

Disruptions can be both good (birth of a baby) and bad (health crisis).

Next, think about the 80/20 rule. It applies to how you handle all disruptions. Roughly 20% are out of your control and you just need to learn to adapt. (Example: The shift to everything being online.) But 80% of what happens with that disruption is within your control… What you choose to pay attention to… What you choose to ignore… What you choose to let go… What you choose to hold onto… What matters to you… What doesn’t.

Disruptions don’t force change on us. What they do, however, is force choices on us. We have the freedom and the responsibility to choose wisely. Unfortunately, especially when it comes to daily disruptions, most of us choose poorly.

RC: What are your top 3 tips for managing or dealing with disruption?

There’s a reason that Step 1 in all 12-step programs is: Admit you have a problem. No tip is going to work unless you admit, like the cartoon character, Pogo, said in the 1940s: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 1. Embrace 1440 as a Gift. Every day you are given 1,440 minutes to do with as you choose. You never get more than that and there are no do overs. While there definitely are a few things you don’t get to choose, most things that consume those 1,440 minutes are the result of your choices. If your life ended today, will your tombstone read: “She never missed a stupid meeting or ignored a stupid email or bypassed a stupid cat video?” Or will it read: “She always did what truly mattered?”

 2. Ignore 75% of Emails, Stop Going to Stupid Meetings. Three out of the five biggest time wasters at work relate to these things.


  • Focus on your most important 10-15 people. Read most everything that comes from them.
  • Everybody else: Put in a Hold folder. Read that when you have time. (You won’t!) Trash that Hold folder every week. While you may miss one or two crucial emails this way, for 90%+ there will be absolutely NO negative consequences for missed emails. Guaranteed!
  • For more, go here


  • When you get the invite, respond “Yes, Tentative” (Never “Yes,” never “No”)
  • Watch for an agenda that indicates going would be a good use of your time
  • If no agenda arrives ahead of time or it doesn’t look like a good use of your time, DON’T GO!
  • Catch one of the attendees afterwards and get a 30-second recap. (You just save yourself an hour!)

 3. Schedule Social Media Time Every Day

  • Limit it. Stick to your limit. Be disciplined!
  • Once you hit your limit, don’t go back! (Until tomorrow.)

RC: Are we fighting a losing battle, here? I remember being in university, and having to go in my room and close my door and be quiet to write assignments or study. These days, it seems like kids study with iPod, TV, chat, text, etc… are their brains just working differently? Or is this a problem? 

We all need quiet time. Even the most plugged in among us. (Especially the most plugged in.)

This isn’t just a Zen/granola/woo-woo thing. This is a requirement to survive and thrive in today’s workworld. The quiet time allows for serendipitous connections between ideas and information that we wouldn’t have made otherwise. These moments are the source of the creativity that is required of all of us.

Whatever works best for you — walking, biking, meditating — make sure you reserve a little bit of quiet time every day.

RC: What role do smartphones play in the disruption game, and how can we manage that more successfully?

That thing has an off-button. Learn how to use it. Regularly.

Unless you are an emergency room doctor, no one will die if their text or voicemail or email goes unanswered for the little bit that you are untethered.

Turn the damn thing off, regularly. It’s that simple.

RC:  Thanks, Bill! 

• • • • • •

About the Author: Bill Jensen, AKA Mr. Simplicity, has spent the past two decades studying how we get stuff done. (Mostly he’s horrified.) Bill speaks all over the world about making it easier to do great work. Jensen’s new book, his seventh, Disrupt! Think Epic. Be Epic is based on interviews with 100 disruptive heroes. He blogs at simplerwork.com.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 1

  1. Great article, unfortunately there are many people who seem cannot detach themselves from social media disruption. It is that become more psychological disruption to me. They cannot withstand without holding their mobile gadget even for more than 5 minute, even when they are spending their time with the family.

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