Interruptions during the work day can be really frustrating. Whether it’s your colleagues that need something from you time and time again or you’ve spent your day trying to “put out fires,” interruptions can make your day go from starting off great to unmanageable and unproductive. You may feel you’ve spent your day handling other people’s work other than your own because you haven’t had the time to be focused and productive.
There’s only so much productivity that can happen in the fact of interruptions so it’s important to learn how to politely manage your interruptions. Here is a look at four easy tips to starting managing your interruptions a little better so that those fires can get put out but you can still accomplish your own work.
Plan for them
An easy way to make interruptions less catastrophic to your day is to plan for them. Planning buffer time in your schedule for the unexpected is the easiest way to take on interruptions or unexpected delays without the frustration. When you know they are possible and you will be needed, it’s easier to handle your day when you’ve scheduled a block of time where your colleagues are welcome to bring their issues to you.
Treat it as an “open door” time-frame, possibly after the lunch hour once you’ve handled all of your morning tasks. Then, schedule time where everyone understands you are unavailable. This should be a time where you don’t answer the phone, you don’t check your email, and you work in a location that is unavailable whether it’s away from your team or with a shut door. Make sure you have an electronic calendar where your team can see that you are going to be unavailable or available during certain times of the day.
Minimize interruption time
If you can take control of the interruption, you can maximize quality of the interruption by not allowing it to linger. For example, when someone calls you for a question, find out if it’s a quick question or if you should schedule a time to really discuss it. In another example, you could turn a “how can I help you” into a “what made you think of me?” so that the interrupter has to really assess why the interruption was important enough to talk to you about it.
It also lets the interrupter know that your time is valuable in that there may be someone else that can be of assistance or that interruptions should only happen if it’s really essential. The goal is that if a two minute interruption comes your way, you want to make sure it’s really going to take two minutes and not linger into something that rearranges your whole schedule.
When you do have that two minute interruption, it’s important that you recover quickly in order to avoid it ruining your work flow. Getting back to where you left off can take longer than the interruption itself, so it’s important to learn to recover quickly. Keep a written plan in place that outlines today’s goals in order to make sure you are returning to productive work after an interruption. Simply consult your plan and you won’t be too distracted by interruptions or procrastination.
Sometimes you have to simply be polite and honest with people. Telling someone that you are busy, that you are awaiting a call, or that you’re in a meeting may be just what it takes. Don’t lie or ignore the interrupter though as you want to maintain your honesty and be trusted by your word.
Don’t be disrespectful by refusing to maintain eye contact or using non-verbal’s to communicate that you are too busy for them, such as staring at your watch or working while they talk. Simply, tell them what you’re doing at the moment and see if it’s something that can be resolved in two minutes or if a meeting needs to be scheduled.
If you are honest, communicative, polite, and organized, you can minimize work-day interruptions. Simply let the interrupter the truth about your current situation, see if it can be resolved in under 5 minutes, and don’t be afraid to schedule quiet time for yourself in which no one is to bother you. You can make sure your work day is successful while politely managing interruptions.