Monday, May 11, 2009

Takin' Care of Business: Ending Interruptions

This is the ninth in a ten part series called, Takin’ Care of Business – Making Work Work for You.

If you don’t think interruptions are a big deal, think again.
  • When an interruption occurs, it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get back on track with train of thought afterwards. Therefore 4 interruptions in a day can mean the loss of an hour in concentration.
  • A manager on average spends 3 hours each day on interruptions.
  • The average person gets 1 interruption every 8 minutes, or approximately 7 an hour, or 50-60 per day. The average interruption takes 5 minutes, totaling about 50% of the average workday. 80% of those interruptions are typically rated as "little value" or "no value" creating approximately 3 hours of wasted time per day.
When it comes to interruptions, you are either the interruptee or the interrupter. If you are the one being interrupted there are a few things you can do to keep them short and to the point.

  • When someone asks if you have a minute, tell them exactly how many minutes you have and stick to it. If you have five minutes, when five minutes is up, offer an alternate time to continue the discussion. Or say ‘No’ and offer an alternate time.
  • Stand up. If you stand and act as if you are leaving, the other person will normally speed up.
  • If you have a chair in your office, keep it filled with books or magazines, and make it hard for someone to sit down.

Now, no one wants to admit this, but sometimes, you are the interrupter. If you are the interrupter, here are some things you can do to break that habit.

  • Don’t pop into your bosses office every time you have a question. If the question isn’t urgent, then keep a log of questions and ask for a short meeting to get them all addressed at once. You can also create an email and save it as a draft. Add the questions as they come to you and then send it once you have collected several questions.
  • Gossip and small talk can wait until breaks or lunch.
  • If you need to make a work-related interruption, keep it short and to the point. Once your question is answered, leave.

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