bq. It makes such a difference for me when I shut off the interruptions, even the ones that seem critically important, and set aside blocks of time to get work done.
Carolyn makes an excellent point about shutting off interruptions (hello Twitter!) but also alludes to the importance of items in your “to do” list. When you’re dealing with multiple responsibilities (eg. projects, clients) it’s not unusual to assume that each one considers itself to be the #1 priority, which doesn’t do you much good because obviously that’s not true. If everything is important then nothing is important.
Again this comes back to setting boundaries and expectations. For example, don’t immediately jump on responding to an email to put our a burning issue on a project. Gauge the necessary immediacy of it first and put it in the queue. Just because someone wants something right away doesn’t mean they actually _need it_ or should get it. Trust yourself to know if it’s really important to act or set it aside for later.
In regards to:
bq. ...the reality of modern life, namely that the largest part of your own destiny is determined by outside influences and that you are indeed, pretty helpless about this thing called life.
While I agree that we shape our own self-images, maybe too often, based on outside factors, I believe we absolutely can control these things for ourselves. How much they affect us, if at all, is entirely in our hands - we’re certainly not helpless.
Although it’s an existentialist point of view, what you are and what you want to be is up to you. If you want something badly enough, hard work and persistence can help you achieve it. But, and that’s a big “but”, there still need to be lines in the sand that you don’t cross and that others need to respect.
To use Carolyn’s beautiful phrasing: “be vigilant”.