Productivity | Managing Interruptions

Do you ever ask yourself the question, “Where did all of my time go?”  If so, you are not alone.  The average employee spends 28% of their time dealing with unnecessary interruptions followed by “recovery time” to get back on track. (Basex Research)

Part of being effective at prioritizing is your ability to manage interruptions.  Interruptions are defined as a pause, break or temporary halt in an ongoing activity or process.  Interruptions are a barrier to managing your time effectively and can be costly to your ability to execute; therefore, interruptions must be understood and managed.

     Types of Interruptions:

  • Self-interruptions: Are defined as times when you interrupt yourself from a planned activity or break your train of thought.  Examples include:  remembering something you were supposed to do, being distracted by piles of paper and disorganization, spending time on unimportant non-priority tasks, letting your mind wonder away from the focus of work (web-surfing, daydreaming).  
  • External interruptions: Are other people interrupting you or breaking your train of thought. Examples include:  people dropping by or calling to talk, emails and calls that distract you from the task at hand, and outside noise and commotion that keeps you from focusing. 


     Techniques to Manage Interruptions:

  • Keep an interruption log.  This will help you to recognize how often you are interrupted with what type of activities and serves as a good first step at getting control of managing interruptions. 
  • Change your mindset.  Not everything should be handled immediately when it hits your desk.  Utilize your prioritization skills to overcome your own mindset around urgent vs. important.  Ask yourself, “Is this the best use of my time?”
  • Block time for interruption free periods.  Block out specified time to complete a task.  Make sure you are comfortable communicating why the time is blocked and when someone may follow-up with you.  Clearly define emergency situation where you may be interrupted during blocked time upfront. 
  • Clear focus while working on task at hand.  Gaining mastery over your own mind to avoid being distracted.  Make small commitments to yourself and expand from there (i.e.  I will not check my phone during the next 15 minutes, etc.)
  • Allocate surplus time.  When you find time gained through managing interruptions, allocate this to items on your prioritization list.

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