“Don’t be defeated by a self-fulfilling prophecy that your interruptions can’t be controlled.”

Jack D. Ferner

Interruptions can drain your available time to address vital priorities. So, not taking control of your time and managing interruptions is tantamount to giving up on getting your most important work done.

Recovery time, that is, the time it takes an individual to return to a task after being interrupted, can be as much as 10 to 20 times the length of the original interruption. This means a 30 second interruption can result in an average of five minutes of recovery time, and that is optimistically assuming that one returns to the original task and does not abandon it.

Tips for managing interruptions, from 175 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time (2000) by David Cottrell and Mark Layton:

  • Schedule “open” time to compensate for important interruptions
  • When people arrive unscheduled, meet them at the door and talk outside your office
  • Stand and remain standing
  • Have the conversation in the other person’s office. It’s often easier to leave than it is to get someone else to go!
  • Don’t check emails constantly (turn off alerts)
  • Stand while talking on the phone for shorter calls

MindTools recommends keeping a log of interruptions for at least a week. You then analyze which are valid and which you must create strategies to block in the future. Be assertive and calmly address interruptions which are not necessary. Ask people to accumulate items needing your attention and handle them during scheduled time blocks, rather than one-by-one.

You can’t blame others for all of your interruptions. “The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work” (W. Edward Deming). Many times we are our own worst enemies, disrupting our work flow by checking email, updating Facebook or other time-absorbers.

Yes, you need to take a break. Schedule small chunks of guilt-free time when you need it. Enjoy these pauses, knowing that you have taken control of the rest of your day.



Need help managing your time? Contact Humanergy.

Photo from microsoft.com.