bought the newest in Palm technology, invested in a planner – complete with
all the fillers, and are diligently attempting to follow the advice of the
time management experts by planning your day the night before, prioritizing
tasks and events. Now, if you could only get a handle on those
pesky interruptions that seem to make all your good intentions go awry.
of job title, interruptions have an impact on every professional's day. In
some job capacities interruptions occur, on average, once every two to three
minutes! While eliminating interruptions from our days is not a reasonable,
or even desirable, goal, it is possible to minimize the impact interruptions
have on our days by implementing a few simple techniques.
In the workshops and seminars
I run people frequently struggle with interruptions because they genuinely
want to be of assistance and want to be seen as a team player. All of the
tools that follow allow you to gain more control over your day and time while
still remaining a team player.
your workspace. It makes sense, if you face your office door or cube
opening, you will attract more of the "hey, how are you?" type of interruptions.
Sometimes, these interrupters linger a bit longer than one would like. If
possible, consider re-arranging your workspace so that you don't face the
opening. If having your back to the door sounds unappealing because you are
in a leadership position and want to be seen as approachable, consider placing
your desk horizontal to the door. This way you will be available, but not
your space is not possible due to pre-formed modules, consider buying a few
plants, tall if necessary, to shield you from passersby.
have a chair for visitors, put a stack of books, papers or other materials
on the chair to discourage visitors from sitting down to chat.
if you are working on a very important project, finding an unoccupied conference
room to work in for scheduled periods of time. If your boss or immediate
supervisor must give approval, I suggest language such as:
working on next quarter's budget proposal this week. Detail and accuracy
are very important. I have arranged to work in the conference room for the
next two days from 10:00 until 12:00. Will that work for you?
worst thing that could happen is they would say no. Then, you are simply
right back where you started with nothing lost.
these ideas will not completely eliminate the passerby interruptions, they
can minimize them.
a signal. Are you frequently interrupted by something trivial when you
are in the middle of something very urgent or important? Do you feel frustrated
and wonder; "don't they know that now is not a good time?" Try establishing
a signal. One that people will recognize before they interrupt you.
popular signals include: a do not disturb sign posted on the door or cube
opening, a red flag placed in a bud vase and placed in a readily visible spot,
a paper clock indicating when you will be available. I have even seen people
put police tape across their cube opening to discourage interruptions. Recognize
that people don't always know that "now is not a good time" and clarify
that for them.
your communication skills. Often it is not the fact that we are interrupted
that is the problem. It is the time the interruption takes. We would like
to answer a person's questions as quickly as possible and get back to our
priorities. Some basic communication skills can assist you.
asks, "do you have a moment?" Set a time limit. For example, respond with,
"Yes, I have 5 minutes. What may I do for you?"
sends the message that while you are willing to assist others, your time is
valuable. It also increases the likelihood that the interrupter will respect
your wishes and keep the interruption as brief as possible.
can also try to acknowledge and reschedule. For example, " I would love to
be able to help you. How about at 2:00 this afternoon?" There is a chance
this technique will eliminate further interruption on that particular issue
because help will be found before 2:00. And, if it doesn't eliminate the
interruption, it can allow you to handle the issue at a time that is more
convenient for you.
your nonverbal communication skills. Messages have both a verbal and
a nonverbal component and we can use some subtle nonverbal cues to suggest
to the interrupter that now is not a good time. If you are seated, try standing
up. If you are standing, try sitting down. This suggests to your interrupter
that it is time to wind the conversation up. If you are caught away from
your office, suggest that you walk and talk at the same time. Then, when
you arrive at your office, use a closing statement such as "is there anything
else I may do for you?"
tools have a proven track record. They are working for professionals just
like yourself who want to increase their productivity while remaining a team
player. Choose one, at minimum to experiment with today.