The average interruption takes six to nine minutes and requires four to five additional minutes for recovery. After three or four interruptions, your focus and concentration will be gone. Interruptions can take time and affect your focus.
To gain control over your interruptions, every time you get interrupted ask yourself, “Is this truly something I must handle right away?” That will really put your interruptions into perspective. You’ll find out after you hear what they need that many don’t need immediate attention.
Evaluate each interruption to determine if it is a “veggie”:
- Does it relate to one of your goals, priorities, or key projects?
- Is the request important to the needs of a customer, a peer, or a team member?
- Is it something time-sensitive from your team leader or boss?
Reduce the noise around you: Noise is one of the fastest ways to lose focus, making it very difficult to be productive. Do people like to congregate outside your cubicle? Have a team agreement that it’s okay to tell each other (without feeling bad) to please keep it down or to use a conference or break room. Don’t be afraid to say something.
Take chairs out of your office: Discourage visitors from staying by removing extra chairs or putting files on them. Visitors will tire of standing and leave.
Put a sign on your door or cubicle: Put a picture of a “veggie” on your door, or a schedule with times when you will and won’t be available, and a note pad so that people can leave their requests in writing instead of disturbing you.
Have a “selective” open door policy: If possible, keep your door closed during your “veggie” times. Announce and post hours when you’ll be available. Set specific times for people who report to you— and promise not to touch the phone or e-mail while they’re with you. If you can’t close your door, escape to a vacant office or meeting room. Tell as few people as possible where you are.
Manager’s tip: Try to get out of your office at least twice each morning to ask your team members if they have any questions or need anything. You’ll be more visible and they’ll have less need to come to your office.
Delegate the interruption to the right person: If you’re not the right person to answer a question or solve a problem, don’t try to please: delegate the interruption to the appropriate person.
Stand up to limit the interruption: The best way to send a clear message that you don’t have a lot of time is to stand up when a visitor arrives. Don’t sit down. Avoid getting into a conversation.
Arrange a later time: Offer to meet later, to discuss the matter without distractions. Be sure to go see them so you can limit the amount of time the interruption takes.
Block off time on your computer: Schedule time on your computer to get your “veggies” done. If you don’t block off time on your computer, the next thing you know you will be in meetings all day long.
Respect others: Before interrupting someone, always ask, “Do you have a minute?” Ask others to do the same with you.
Set up a group “power hour”: At your next team meeting, suggest designating certain times when interruptions and noise are to be minimized. Everyone on the team agrees not to interrupt each other and to try to get a “veggie” done in that hour. Schedule your “power hour” in the morning.
“Always evaluate your interruptions. Ask yourself, ‘Is this something I must handle now?’”