How To Handle Interruptions Effectively

Has any of these ever happened to you?

  • You're working on a big project that requires a lot of attention when suddenly you get a visitor who just wants to chitchat with you.
  • You're writing an email to a prospective client when all of the sudden your husband or wife calls you up and complains that you don't give them enough attention.
  • You're drafting a report to your boss, when suddenly you're being asked to attend a meeting that has very little relation to you or your job.

I bet one of the first reactions would be anger, frustration, or even both. Nevertheless, it's not a pleasant experience getting interrupted while you're doing something important. Besides, it also adds more stress on you because the important work remains open and undone until you finish with the interruption. So how do you deal with these so-called "time wasters"?

First of all you have to think of ways to avoid interruptions from coming to you. There are various ways of achieving this:

  • Tell your assistant to hold off any calls or visitors until a specific time. This way, you can focus on work without the thought that you may be disturbed. Though you will have to expect that you may need to do a lot of calls or meet with a lot of people after.
  • Go to a place that will allow you to work uninterrupted. This is the reason why some executives prefer to work in a café or an unused meeting room. However, the problem is you'll have a hard time coming back to the office if an emergency occurs.
  • Disconnect yourself from the web. There's nothing more intrusive than the ability to work and at the same time, watch movies off YouTube or chatting with buddies over instant messengers. If you can do your work offline, the better. However, if your work includes using IM and email, then it would be best to discipline yourself in focusing at the task at hand.

What do you do if it's already in front of you? There are things that you need to think about first:

  • Is it really a disturbance? Most of these maybe an opportunity in the making or even worse, it may be a symptom of an even bigger disaster looming ahead. So before you even think it's an annoyance, think it over. If it is, then suggest some temporary stopgap measures or schedule tackling it sometime within the day.
  • Is it something that can be finished with within 2 minutes? If a form just needs to be looked at for one minute and then be signed, then it's better to be done with it.

If it doesn't fall on any of these, then it really must be a disturbance. You have two options on how to deal with it:

  • Move away from the source of disturbance. Either you excuse yourself out of the meeting or just close the chat room. Sometimes just walking away from it and seeing it as not important makes your important work even clearer.

Confront it. You can ask the visitor to meet with you at another time, or if it's an email, write that you will be replying to him with all the details he requires on another particular day. It's a great way for them to know that you are too busy for them right now, but will give your undivided attention on another day.


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