How many times a day are you totally focused on an important task or project, only to be interrupted and kicked out of your focus zone? By the telephone ringing? Others at your office? Maybe an email notification? The consequence of interruptions is that you lose your focus and the time spent managing interruptions, therefore decreasing your productivity.
People don’t intentionally interrupt you throughout the day in an effort to diminish your productivity, but that is unfortunately exactly what occurs - all the time! Shockingly, the average office worker is interrupted 73 times a day while the average manager, every eight minutes. EVERY eight minutes? Think of all the valuable time you lose handling those inevitable interruptions. Many of those common interruptions are actually people. These may include colleagues, employees, and vendors. While controlling people is not really possible, managing interruptions is because we can control how we make ourselves available to them.
Here are a few simple recommendations for managing interruptions at work proactively and effectively.
Post open office hours. Express to your colleagues that these are the hours you’re available for questions, concerns, or mindless chit-chat. Schedule your open office hours for late afternoons when your energy is typically at its lowest level and you are the least productive. Or, if you are the type of person who needs four cups of coffee before you can truly focus, schedule your open office hours for early mornings. Colleagues will be more respectful of your private work time when they know you’ll be available to meet their needs during particular hours each day.
Consistently managing interruptions from employees does not have to be difficult but it is inevitable. You’re their go-to after all, the person with all the answers. It’s your business so who better to ask how to address a client’s concern, fill out paperwork, or follow a new procedure? If your employees know they’ll receive your undivided attention during regularly scheduled meetings, they will not continue to interrupt you at their convenience which more often than not, inconveniences you. Schedule regular meetings with each employee to address their questions, concerns, or challenges. These could be daily morning meetings or weekly Monday meetings. Do whatever works for your business and remember to give yourself an appropriate amount of time to tackle all of their needs.
While vendors may bring you great value, their timing may not always be convenient. They might just drop by to meet with you, hand you a product, or ask you to sign a document without even calling ahead first (another interruption to your focus by the way). Don’t let your vendors’ drop-ins dictate how you spend your day. Be proactive by implementing a new policy that vendors need to schedule an appointment to meet with you. Express your reasonable request to your vendors in advance. If you have an assistant or receptionist, ensure they act as your gatekeepers. If you do not have staff to enforce the policy, place a sign outside your door saying “Private Work Time. Please schedule an appointment.”
Effectively managing interruptions that are unnecessary from your external environment such as colleagues, employees, and vendors is a proactive strategy that will enable you to focus for longer periods, thus increasing your productivity.