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Planning Interruptions


     If you are like most people, your day is filled with interruptions.  An interruption is anyone or anything that breaks or obstructs an activity.  Interruptions are by their nature urgent.  They carry a demand by someone to be immediately addressed. 

 

     Interruptions significantly reduce efficiency.  People cannot multitask.  The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time.  You can quickly switch tasks, but you are only focused on one thing at any moment of time.  In fact, it takes about three times longer to complete a project or task if interruptions occur. Let that sink in.  A project that would take you 30 minutes to complete will take closer to 2 hours to finish if you are interrupted a few times.

 

     What feelings, thoughts and beliefs do you have around interruptions?  You might say interruptions are just the nature of your job.  I hate them.  I put up with them.  That’s just life, one big interruption.  The following list of words capture the typical emotion of interruption; distraction, irritation, upsetting, overwhelming, aggravation, impatience, rudeness, wearisome….need I go on?  Most likely, when you are interrupted, it is a downer, not an upper.

 

     You may be thinking, what’s a person to do?  Here’s my suggestion.  Take full ownership and responsibility for your interruptions including your response to interruption.  Depending on your situation, set aside blocks of time where you are available to others, and also set aside times where you are not available.  I realize that some jobs are driven by unpredictable interruption – ringing phones, immediate response, customer demands and requests (internal and external), crying babies, emergency response.  Even if the nature of your main job is urgent, there is a portion of your job that would be best performed when you are “off active duty”.  Work with your manager and team to create blocks of time where you can work without urgency and interruption.  Even if it is only a few hours a week, it will make a huge difference. 

 

     If you are in a position that has leadership/managerial responsibilities, it is critical for you to deal effectively with interruptions and own your day.  You must become a time warrior, and rigorously plan your day and create an environment conducive to full presence with people and maximum efficiency with projects.  To maximize efficiency, you must designate blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on critical projects and tasks. To increase your effectiveness with people, during the time you make yourself available you must welcome the interruptions.  You must reprogram your thoughts and response to be engaged, focused, patient, relaxed, calm, kind, helpful, listening, approachable, accommodating, warm, and welcoming.  You can learn to love and enjoy interruption and start dancing instead of wrestling.  To make this happen, create agreements with your team around a schedule that includes times when you welcome interruptions, and other times when they are not allowed.

 

     This is possible.  The time has come for you to own your day and no longer be a victim to interruptions.  If you want to transition to this practice, let’s have a conversation.  I can help you address the challenges associated with this change.

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