March 15, 2010

Can I Interrupt You For a Minute?

TAPP Time Management  Book


We have all heard that phrase: "can I interrupt you a minute?", but we have learned the hard way that the interruption very rarely lasts just a minute. Then what happens when you try to get back to the task you were working on before the interruption? Have you lost focus or momentum? Can you even remember what you were working on before the interruption? Time yourself next time you are interrupted to determine how long you need to get back the focus for your task. Interruptions, therefore, can have a big impact on productivity.


What type of interruptions do you have? People you work with? Phone calls? Technology such as email, instant messaging, texts, etc.? Or do you interrupt yourself by stopping the important work you are doing with less critical work or fun things such as checking your Facebook updates? Sometimes if you are working on a task you dislike you look for people and things to interrupt you thinking: "Please take me away from this!"

I believe that most interruptions can be controlled. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Handle Visitors and Callers – The key to handling people who visit or call you with the famous phrase, "Do you have a minute?", is the ability to quickly access the urgency of their issue and how much time they truly need. Asking a few quick questions in a respectful way to determine the answer to these two issues will allow you to decide whether to handle the situation immediately or set a specific time later to give the person your full attention. Alan Lakein, author of How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life says to be ruthless with time, but courteous with people. If your employees feel like they cannot ever interrupt you they may handle a critical issue incorrectly which may create a larger issue.

Analyze Your Interruptions - By analyzing the who and the why of your interruptions you may discover a pattern. For example you may have one employee that interrupts quite often with questions he should be able to answer. Could it be he lacks confidence and needs more training? Or you may be interrupted by several people asking the same question. This could mean that you need to plan training for everyone or communicate more information to empower people to handle the situation in the future.

Set Electronic-Free Time Zones – All the use of technology has caused a conditional reflex of immediately checking every time you hear the tone of your email, texts and/or instant messaging. Ask yourself, "What would happen if I did not answer immediately?" If the answer is "not much", you can create an Electronic-Free Time Zone. Set one or two specific time periods every day that you turn off everything electronic and just use this time to complete projects and other work that takes your full concentration. It is a good idea to let colleagues and friends know about your E-Free zones to set their expectations.

Reward Yourself – If you are working on a tedious project or task and find yourself looking for interruptions, you can set up a reward system. Make a deal with yourself to focus on your project for a set period of time such as 30 minutes or an hour and then reward yourself for a few minutes with something more interesting or fun to do. By giving yourself a "brain break" reward you will feel more energized to get back to your project because you know you have another reward scheduled soon.
You can control interruptions, feel more productive, and have less stress in your life.


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