Defending Yourself Against an Ambush

canstockphoto4928698One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” with Peter Sellers. His character, Inspector Clouseau, has a hired manservant, Cato, a martial arts expert. Cato, when he is not serving, is employed to ambush Clouseau in order to keep his combat skills sharp. The ambushes nearly always lead to funny, but massively destructive scenes. It’s a specific sort of humor and not for everyone, but it makes me laugh nearly every time.

I was thinking about the ambushes that happen in everyday life. It’s 4am – my sleep was taken over last night by a long list of anxieties about things that must be done. I tossed and turned, woke up 4 or 5 times, eventually laying there angrily until I wrote a post in my head about it. And here it is.

I have to start really questioning my activities, when, at the end of the day, I’m exhausted and have very little to show for it. What happened to the time? What happened to my early morning ambition? What did it get hijacked by?

Picture it. It’s a beautiful sunny, but cold morning. The “to do” list is sitting on my desk, neatly written out from the night before – even written in order by priority. It’s artistry. I shower right away, as this is key when working from home. Shower and dress right away or you’ll find yourself at 2pm, eating soup out of a can in your pjs, because all the dishes are dirty. Not much will be happening that day. But on this day, I’m showered and dressed. I’ve eaten a super healthy breakfast. I get my child off to school. I sit down at my desk, energized and ready to go. Then Cato shows up.

Cato is the phone call from the family member that leaves me angry and hostile for an hour afterwards (let’s get that emotional eating out of the way). Cato is in my computer as I click through the news, blogs and email jokes. Cato is the cat that decides throw up in six different places in the livingroom. Cato is the home schooled kid next door who is playing basketball against the house. Thump, thump, thump.

Cato can come in all forms, shapes and sizes. He can be the coworker who hangs over your cube wall telling you his descriptive colonoscopy tale or how her boyfriend did her wrong this time, gnawing away at your time and your senses, like a dog with a bone. Cato is waiting around every corner.

Now, being ex-military and a red belt in taekwondo, I feel that I am in the position to give advice on how to handle an ambush: run away screaming like a grown woman when she sees a house centipede (come on now – they’re creepy!). It stops ambushes cold. At some point, everyone stops talking to you out of fear that you will shriek and run. The ambitious ones will run after you and still talk, but this is why you need to work out – you can shake them on the first flight of stairs.

Today, I’m ready for ambushes. I’m not answering the phone or checking emails until I’ve taken care of priority tasks. I’m taking a brisk morning hike in the woods to shake off the cobwebs. And I’m definitely showering. If Cato shows up in the form of a house centipede in my bathtub (why oh why do they like my bathtub?), I’m killing it dead.

Here’s wishing you an ambush-free day!

Except for maybe this video…hey, where are you going? Why are you screaming?

24 Comments on “Defending Yourself Against an Ambush

  1. My cato is my dog. She is a full day, every day distraction. I jump up and let her outside, and back inside all day long, in addition to 2 walks per day, two feedings, filling her water bowl almost hourly and countless pats on the head. She is spoiled and I allow it,

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    • I have a love/hate relationship with the cats. Anyone who thinks cats are low maintenance and independent, have never been “talked to” for an hour by mine. I keep explaining to them that I don’t speak the language, but that doesn’t shut them up. Dogs at least give a person the added benefit of exercise!

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  2. I’ve never thought of things like that as ambushes. This is a great post.

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  3. I had a morning like that just yesterday. Without any warning the coffee maker just refused to make coffee; that was rough. And don’t get me started on the two 15 year old cats and their age-related issues… Here’s hoping Cato has taken the weekend off!

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  4. Whenever I try to work from home the whole day seems to go Cato. (Can we make that a verb now? I’m liking it. Cato-ing). I get stuff done, but me making coffee is not really an accomplishment. It’s easier to while away my time at work because then at least there isn’t evidence of dirty dishes lying about — it’s all take-out.

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    • This has been a problem for me since I started to work from home 6 years ago – there are always distractions. I’ve been trying to protect blocks of time, but then it totally gets Cato-ed (I’m with you on the verb). It would get Cato-ed when I was in an office, too, but the distractions were usually work-related. I’m still working on it, because I do like being at home. My latest thing is to close my study doors when I’m working. Somehow, having a physical barrier helps!

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      • I’ve heard people even go to extreme measures of showering in the morning and *dressing* for work to ensure their head is in the right space, even if working from home. I think having the physical barrier is a good thing. You have to open the door and exert the effort (calories) to counteract the frequent trips to the kitchen for snacks. (or maybe that’s just me).

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        • No, not just you. One door leads to the kitchen and the other to the hallway across from the bathroom. Apparently the study is just where I digest. Ew, that might be a bit much information…sorry!

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        • I was going to say the same thing but wanted to get to get to know you a bit better before I went the TMI route. Very good, you beat me to it. You are the better friend.

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  5. I love that movie – I’m not sure what my cato is – probably fatigue. I work outside of the home and all of the things I think that I want to get done at the end of the day usually remain undone.

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    • You probably do a lot more physical labor than I do during a workday. For whatever reason, my time management skills were much better when I didn’t work at home. I have to really start improving on it, if I’m going to continue to pursue writing as a career. My Cato today was actually exhaustion as well. I need a good night’s sleep! Have a great weekend!

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  6. My DVR ambushes me all the time – so much to watch, I must dive in before it gets so full it starts deleting things I haven’t watched. I do best if I avoid the TV all together until late afternoon on a weekend – if not it’s a PJ day.

    BTW – I read this whole post with that accent – adds to my enjoyment.

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    • Netflix can often be my distraction, but usually I hold off during work hours IF I’ve showered and acted like I might see other humans. Glad the accent is adding to your pleasure. Now if you could make a “hot dish” and say “uff da” a lot, you’d be set!

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  7. A difficult and sometimes semi-illusive strategy I have been able to pull off authentically if I can, pretending if I have to, is to own that no one or thing can take my joy without my permission. There… that was easy to say!

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    • I understand that about joy, but sometimes the ambush of time is a challenge. Life happens and as adaptable as one can try and be, it’s much more enjoyable to feel productive! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  8. Interruptions, people who just need “a moment” of my time, are kind of a sore point of mine. I’ve been debugging a code problem and found the cause to be a lack of agreement between two parts of the program. I’ve come to realize many of these are due to interruptions. There are time when a change requires making a synchronized change to multiple parts of the code. If you are interrupted during that and you lose your place, it’s possible not all parts get changed. It can make for nasty, hard-to-find bugs.

    A big part of learning to work effectively for me involves finding ways to work as distraction and interruption-free as possible. (If I ever do figure it out, I’ll be sure to share!)

    And these days, people carry their Cato with them in the form of a cell phone. Studies have shown that this blurs the lines between our private and work lives, and that increases our stress.

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    • The interruption of the thought processes has upended everything from writing coherently to having to re-check paid accounting work several times over for me. It also makes me feel more frazzled and less centered. It’s one of my goals in 2013 to put more boundaries in place (specific time frames for doing specific projects) and to create protected time.

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      • For some it’s helpful drawing hard boundaries around cell phone use and/or internet use. Cell phones, especially, have been shown to be major offenders in crossing boundaries between segments of our lives. Easy to call a family member at work, and thus home invades the work place. And many take work calls on work phones outside work hours; thus work invades the home. And as you know, it can get really complicated with a home office!

        My ideal would be an office physically distinct from the house. Say a finished room over the garage (Dave Berry style), or even a small stand-alone unit on the property. A place to go where you are “at work,” whatever “work” happens to mean to you.

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