Too Many Interruptions? It’s Your Own Fault
After you read every people management, time management, and leadership book available, one of the most useful pieces of advice is to avoid interruptions, while still being available to your team when they need you.
In brief, you use some sort of signal that you don’t want to be interrupted – closing your office door, putting an object on top of your monitor, or turning your chair at a certain angle.
The world won’t stop for you
Thinking of arriving at the office early to offset your overload and have some clear time to think?
Now, with social media, smartphones, BYOD, and globally dispersed teams, you might have no quiet time at all. We live in an ‘always on’ world, where it seems impossible to get any peace and quiet.
The good news is: It’s not impossible.
After all, you could switch off all your devices, stay inside, and only go out when you want to – but that’s not practical.
What is practical is to set up your own rules about how, when and where you are willing to be interrupted.
Five broad guidelines to help you set your personal parameters:
1. Set goals
Start each week by setting the important goals for the week, and start each day by setting the important goals for the day (or do this the night before, if that works better for you). If you get interrupted by something, consider its urgency and stick to your goal creating whenever possible.
2. Interrupt yourself
When you’re working, work! Use something like the Pomodoro Technique to work in short bursts, and then switch off with a short break.
Take short breaks during your work, but treat these as breaks between work tasks, so it’s very clear when you’re working and when you’re taking a break. Otherwise it’s difficult to focus on work when you should be working, and it can be difficult to keep your mind off work at other times.
3. Switch off
Some of the interruptions you get are entirely under your own control, and are easy to eliminate – for example:
- Facebook notifications on your phone (turn off notifications)
- Emails from social networks (turn them off; they are usually stored online anyway)
- Email newsletters you no longer read (unsubscribe)
- Notifications from phone apps (disable notifications or uninstall the app)
4. Pick and choose
Not everybody in your network should have equal access to you. So decide who gets priority access, and create a system to coordinate it.
For example, you might choose to only give out your mobile number to family and friends; and everybody else gets the office number. Or you could set up a different ring tone for your immediate family, and ignore all other calls when you’re busy. Or use a special email address for all your newsletter subscriptions, and set up a rule to automatically file them in a ‘Reading’ folder.
5. Get it right next time
It’s useful to pause after every interruption and ask yourself, “How could I prevent this from happening again?” Sometimes you might decide you don’t want to prevent it, because it really is important. But you’ll find plenty of opportunities to avoid future interruptions – for example:
- Delegate more to your team
- Document something better, so they don’t need to ask you again
- Use checklists, templates and forms for common tasks, so things don’t get overlooked
- Hire, outsource or contract staff to handle things you shouldn’t be handling
- Stop being so reactive to everything
How can you use this?
Don’t expect the rest of the world to sit back and wait for you. If you don’t create your own systems to channel the chaos, you’ll continue to be frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed.
So take charge. Your life, your rules.
Gihan Perera is an Internet coach who works with professional speakers, trainers, coaches consultants, thought leaders, change agents and entrepreneurs, helping them leverage their expertise, individually and in groups, on and off the Internet. Visit www.gihanperera.com
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”