Tag Archive: managing interruptions



We all are interrupted throughout the course of our workday, by people and by things that may not necessarily always be in our control.  No matter what the interruption is or how many of them we encounter during our day, if you want to have a very productive day, you have to get a handle on managing those interruptions.   Get ahead of the game and start by preventing interruptions before they occur.

When you control interruptions and eliminate distractions in your day, you have more time to work on the things that matter.  Look at the things that keep interrupting your day or keep you from working on what matters most.  What are the things that interrupt you the most and why? What’s interrupting you right now?  What can you do to put a stop to that distraction?

If you can’t answer this question right away, keep track over the period of one week of what is interrupting you and the reason for each interruption.  Also make a note of how much time you spend on each distraction.  At the end of the week, add up the accumulated time spent on the distractions. As you review your list, ask yourself what you can do to stop the various distractions.

One common interruption is the telephone.  It may not always be possible to not take phone calls or answer the phone, but there are times that it’s possible to have someone take messages, let the calls go to voice mail or place the phone on do not disturb and return calls later in the day.  This is especially helpful when you’re working on one of your top priority items.  You can keep working and know that you can still address the needs of those on the other end of the phone, just not right at that time.

Coworkers present another common interruption.  It might be that they come to your workspace or office because they need something from you.  To cut down on those interruptions, change your habits.  When someone enters your space, ask them what they need and let them know that if it’s something that will only take a few minutes, you can stop and help them right then; if it’s going to take longer, find out what it is that they need and set a time to talk to them or to get them what they need a little later in the day.  This helps keep you on track with your top priorities and keeps your day flowing.

Others may stop by because they want to chat about their weekend or something that happened.  It’s easy to get caught up in it, but it costs you precious time and brings your productivity level down.  If you have an extra chair in your office and you don’t want to remove it, try placing a personal item such as your briefcase or coat in it to stop people from coming in and sitting down.  If they have to stand, they may be inclined to spend less time in your office, but once they sit down, they are likely to spend more time visiting.  People are less likely to move personal items to sit down.

If you have an office, close the door occasionally to help curb interruptions.  For example, I used to do payroll at a job that I had some time ago, which is something where there was no room for error.  The problem was that I had multiple interruptions.  My remedy was to close my office door from the time I started the payroll process until I finished and then deal with the requests that people had after that.  That became my habit.  My coworkers got into the habit of not disturbing me on Monday mornings.  If they forgot and came to my office, they remembered that the closed door on a Monday meant that I was busy with payroll, and they could come back in a couple of hours.  They also came to know that if the door was closed at any other time that I couldn’t help them right then, but would be available later on.

These may seem like simple actions to take, but they are quite effective.  You develop new habits around interruptions and begin to learn how to handle them effectively and others begin to respect your time.  You will be surprised at how much these simple things can help increase your productivity level.

 


To add to the list of possible interruptions, we can look to those in our work environment.  Coworkers present another common interruption.  It might be that they come to your workspace or office because they need something from you.  To cut down on those interruptions, change your habits.  When someone enters your space, ask them what they need and let them know that if it’s something that will only take a few minutes, you can stop and help them right then; if it’s going to take longer, find out what it is that they need and set a time to talk to them or to get them what they need a little later in the day.  This helps keep you on track with your top priorities and keeps your day flowing.  

Others may stop by because they want to chat about their weekend or something that happened.  It’s easy to get caught up in it, but it costs you precious time and brings your productivity level down.  If you have an extra chair in your office and you don’t want to remove it, try placing a personal item such as your briefcase or coat in it to stop people from coming in and sitting down.  If they have to stand, they may be inclined to spend less time in your office, but once they sit down, they are likely to spend more time visiting.  People are less likely to move personal items to sit down. 

If you have an office, close the door occasionally to help curb interruptions.  For example, I used to do payroll at a job that I had some time ago, which is something where there was no room for error.  The problem was that I had multiple interruptions.  My remedy was to close my office door from the time I started the payroll process until I finished and then deal with the requests that people had after that.  That became my habit.  My coworkers got into the habit of not disturbing me on Monday mornings.  If they forgot and came to my office, they remembered that the closed door on a Monday meant that I was busy with payroll, and they could come back in a couple of hours.  They also came to know that if the door was closed at any other time that I couldn’t help them at that point in time, but would be available later on.

These may seem like simple actions to take, but they are quite effective.  You develop new habits around interruptions and begin to learn how to handle them effectively and others begin to respect your time.  You will be surprised at how much these simple things can help increase your productivity level.


Break; pause; disruption; intermission; interlude; disturbance; intrusion; stoppage; interval.  No matter what you call it, it’s an interruption.   We all are interrupted throughout the course of our workday, by people and by things that may not necessarily always be in our control.  No matter what the interruption is or how many of them we encounter during our day, the truth of the matter is that if you want to have a very productive day, you have to get a handle on managing those interruptions.   Get ahead of the game and start by preventing interruptions before they occur.

When you control interruptions and eliminate distractions in your day, you have more time to work on the things that matter.  Look at the things that keep interrupting your day or keep you from working on what matters most.  What are the things that interrupt you the most and why? What’s interrupting you right now?  What can you do to put a stop to that distraction?

If you can’t answer this question right away, keep track over the period of one week of what is interrupting you and the reason for each interruption.  Also make a note of how much time you spend on each distraction.  At the end of the week, add up the accumulated time spent on the distractions. As you review your list, ask yourself what you can do to stop the various distractions. 

One common interruption is the telephone.  It may not always be possible to not take phone calls or answer the phone, but there are times that it’s possible to have someone take messages, let the calls go to voice mail or place the phone on do not disturb and return calls later in the day.  This is especially helpful when you’re working on one of your top priority items.  You can keep working and know that you can still address the needs of those on the other end of the phone, just not right at that time.

Check my next post for more tips on handing interruptions!


Being a time management coach I’ve seen many people challenged with many things over the years when it comes to managing their time.  For some it’s the distracting, disorganized environment that makes things challenging; some don’t know their personal energy cycles, or what I call their “prime time” so they work against their grain.  Others don’t spend enough time on their top priorities so the important things aren’t getting done, and there are those who get caught up in the email vortex completely distracted from the tasks at hand.  Still there are others who do things without thinking and planning, and those who don’t handle interruptions effectively and some who are busy doing nothing all day.

Believe it or not, I could go on since there are so many things that can challenge individuals with managing their time, but these are the repeat offenders.  If you find it challenging to manage your time, I’m guessing that you find yourself somewhere in one or maybe more of the above situations.  I’m curious to know what challenges you have.  If I’ve described your situation or if I didn’t mention your time management challenge, take a moment to reply to this post to let me know where you’re most challenged when it comes to managing your time.


How many times during the course of a work day do you find yourself interrupted by the phone, a colleague, your boss or something else?  How do you handle those interruptions?  Have you ever paid attention to how much they set you back?

The average person is interrupted once every 8 minutes; each interruption takes about 5 minutes totaling 4 hours, which, of course, equals half of the work day! Are you spending half of your work day giving in to the interruptions of the day?  Half of your day is precious time lost, whether it’s work time or personal time.  Knowing how to handle the interruptions is critical to your productivity.  If you’re not quite sure how to handle interruptions, join us on Tuesday, February 10th for a FREE TeleClinic on Handling Interruptions.  Visit this link for additional information and to register.

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