Written by: By Leslie Shreve Productivity Expert “Gotta minute?”
Tips for Managing Interruptions in Your Work Day
How many times do you hear that during your day at work? It’s a common interruption from your staff, colleagues or leaders that causes you to break your focus, stop what you’re doing and give attention to the person standing in your doorway.
If it’s not a person, then the interruption is from your office phone, cell phone or e-mail, which are all still demands on your time and attention and cause you to behave reactively instead of proactively. And reactivity can cause you to lose time and other equally important things, like losing track of tasks, deadlines and opportunities, especially if you’re not surrounded by systems you trust.
It’s time to be more proactive about your time.
It’s true… interruptions will never stop altogether and sometimes they can even be productive – holding a wealth of information (or entertainment) and chock full of great ideas and opportunities.
However, timing is everything during your work day and while too much structure can put a damper on your day, structure is absolutely necessary for you to have freedom and a productive day so you can still take some interruptions without losing ground on your work day productivity.
First, every professional needs to protect at least 20% of their day from interruptions – period. That means 80% of your day is “available” with your door open, if you have one. This also means you can answer the phone, cell phone or look at e-mail if you want.
But during your 20%, you need to shut the door, direct all calls to voice mail, turn away from your e-mail and don’t take any interruptions. This should be your best and most focused quality time for getting your things done. I suggest one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon.
Below I’ve offered five tips you can use to start making changes in your work day. And remember that being constantly interrupted is not your fate or destiny. It is truly changeable. You’re still in control!
1.) Remove Yourself Work more from home, use a conference room in the office or simply close your office door to reduce external interruptions.
2.) Set (or Re-Set) Expectations Discuss your new plan with your staff or colleagues and let them know how long you’ll be unavailable and when you’ll be available again. One of the most stressful things to endure as a staff member or direct report is worrying about when they’ll get to talk with their leaders again. Taking the same time each day for quiet time will help others get to know your routine sooner than later.
3.) Close Your Door When you close your door for quiet time, let people know that unless there’s a true emergency (the building is on fire, someone’s bleeding out…) that you do not wish to be disturbed. Be sure to define emergency – in your own terms – so they know what you mean.
4.) Lock the door Put a note on your door about when you’ll be available again in order to communicate to those who may not be on your team. Then lock the door so people won’t rudely and arbitrarily walk into your office when your door is shut. If you’ve set expectations and have support from your peers or leaders, then there should be no issue with this at all. I’ve had clients do this and it works wonderfully!
5.) Decide Ahead of Time If you DON’T decide ahead of time whether you’ll answer your phone or cell phone, look at e-mail, or answer the door, then you’ll fall victim to them every time you experience one of these interruptions. You’re more likely to stay focused if you know what your intentions are for your 20%. Leslie Shreve shows professionals how to get the freedom to do what they really want to do – sooner than later. www.productiveday.com “Leslie was my Productivity Coach in 2011 and really is an expert in this subject matter. If you want to take your productivity to the next level, contact Leslie.” Mike Mack, Business Strategist, X5 Management Inc.