At work interruptions can be the bane of people’s lives! In a survey of 6000 people 71% of them reported frequent interruptions. You know the deal…you’re right in the middle of a high yield task and someone says “Have you got 2 minutes to discuss…?” or “Can I borrow you for a sec?” Your heart sinks because you know it won’t be 2 minutes or a second but much longer.
According to Basex research:
“Interruptions at work cost the USA a whopping $588 billion/year in lost productivity.”
So what do you do? How do you say no nicely? How do you maintain your focus? Your ability to plan for and handle interruptions is pivotal to your ability to make the most of your time and hence be as productive as you need to be. Here are some suggestions.
- Book a meeting room
- Make yourself difficult to find! Hide yourself away in a meeting room or place that people won’t come looking for you so that you can focus on your tasks, particularly those elephant tasks that need a lot of concentration.
- Demonstrate you availability
- Be clear about the times you can be interrupted and when you can’t. For example, you might close your door, display a red flag or put on headphones when you don’t want to be disturbed. You need to communicate your strategy to your colleagues and follow through with your commitment. If they do try to interrupt at those times, do not be drawn and tell them briefly when you will be free again.
- Set expectations
- Similar to the last one, be clear about when and how you can be interrupted. You may choose to make yourself available between 10am and 2pm but not outside those hours. This is often a cultural thing and may need to be addressed as a company or organisation.
- Plan time in your schedule for them
- Interruptions happen, it’s a fact so don’t pack your schedule so full that even minor interruptions cause you to lose ground and abandon your plan altogether. Give yourself some wiggle room.
- Teach people to fish
- It’s nice to be the expert or ‘go to’ person but if these interruptions are interfering with your time management, invest the time in teaching others to do the task for themselves. It doesn’t take long to show somebody how to access information on the intranet or format a document but the investment will reap long term dividends.
- Communicate assertively
- Learn how to say no constructively. You have 2 options: You can say: NO, followed by an honest explanation
or say NO, followed with an alternative solution or suggestion. For example “I’m not able to help you right now, I know John’s available though”.
By following these simple suggestions, you can improve your productivity enormously. Give them a go.