Since the start of this year, the topic of our video series has been Productivity Tools for Leaders. Today we’re up to strategy #12 and I’d like to talk about what you can do to control interruptions.
It’s imperative that you control interruptions
If you want to control interruptions in your workday, it is very important to take ownership of it. Because if you sit around waiting for others to stop interrupting you, you’re going to be waiting a very long time!
A ground-breaking study conducted by Gloria Mark in 2005 showed that the average office worker spends only 11 minutes on any given task before s/he is interrupted. If you think that’s bad, wait, it gets worse! After someone is interrupted, it takes on average, 25 minutes to return to the initial task. Do you see the mathematical problem here? At this rate, you’ll never get anything done. So it’s up to you to deliberately, thoughtfully, firmly, and respectfully control interruptions. Now there are lots of things you can do to manage interruptions but in today’s post, I’d like to share two specific ideas.
Use visible headphones
Idea #1: invest in a set of visible headphones, not the kind that fit into your ears, but the kind that fit over your head. Why, you might ask? Because it sends a visible signal that you’re working on something and that now is probably not a good time to interrupt you. Now there are two things I want you to consider if you’re going to do this. First, don’t keep your headset on all the time, only use it when you are working on something big that requires your complete concentration. If you use them all the time, then they will lose their efficacy and impact. Second, you don’t actually have to have music or any audio playing while your headset is on. Just the fact that you have them on will give people pause before they interrupt you. I have a colleague who works in a home office, and she says the kids have learned that if Mommy has the headset on, she can’t be interrupted. She confessed that sometimes she puts the headset on even if she’s not on the phone. Now I know that your situation is probably not the same, but it’s worth considering. 😊
Set verbal time limits
Idea#2: verbally set time limits. Answer the phone with “I’ve got five minutes between meetings, how can I help you?”. Or when someone comes into your office, “I need to return a phone call but I can give you five minutes right now”. You get the idea. When you set verbal time limits, you are respectfully conveying to the other person that you while you can stop to give them what they need, you don’t have time to have a chinwag as you have other things you need to get done.
I’ve just given you two ideas to control interruptions. There are many more things you can do, but by far the most important message I want you to take from today’s tip is that you must take ownership for managing interruptions. Because if you don’t, if you wait for someone else to do it for you, it will never happen!
What are your ideas to control interruptions in your workday? What are you doing that has worked well (or hasn’t)? Please share by commenting below.
Earlier, I said that this is Strategy #12 in a series we started at the beginning of this year. The two most recent posts are:
- Use technology to block distractions (that come from using technology!)
- How to manage distractions (aka the “Squirrel syndrome”)
Or just access the whole series here: Productivity tools for leaders video series