how to manage interruptions

Benefits of Minimising Interruptions and Five Ways to Manage Them

***Updated on 30 March, 2021

Interruptions can decrease your productivity by up to 2 hours per day

If you’re frustrated by constant interruptions at work, you’re not alone. Participants of our Personal Efficiency Program tell us that interruptions are the most frustrating part of their workday. In fact, 46% of participants report that interruptions take up 1-2 hours each day, and 41% say that interruptions take up over 2 hours of their time each day. Some participants tell us that interruptions take up more than half of their workday.

Research indicates that it takes an average of 23 minutes to recover your focus after an interruption. Knowing how to minimise interruptions can make a big difference to your productivity. Combined with other changes to your work habits, you can gain up to two extra hours of productive time each day.

So what are effective ways to minimise interruptions? Today we show you how to be more productive with our top strategies on how to manage interruptions and stay focused.

1. Block out focus time

One of the most powerful strategies on how to manage interruptions is to block out time in your day for deep, focused work. During this time, try to unplug as much as you can – turn off notifications on all devices, turn your phone off or to silent, shut down your email, and close any tabs that are unrelated to the current task. This way, you can create a physical work environment that minimises interruptions.

2. Schedule contact hours

how to be more productive

We can’t do our jobs without talking to others. It can be helpful to schedule “contact hours” or “office hours”, during which you can focus your attention on reactive tasks like clearing your inbox while making yourself available for others to contact you. This way, colleagues or clients can share their thoughts and concerns with you, without disrupting your flow.

Conversely, if you want to know how to be more productive, try being mindful of your own habits around interrupting other people. Respect their routine and office hours. To be more efficient, try batching non-urgent items that you need to speak to someone about, and discussing all of them together at a regular catch up. Setting up a weekly meeting with your manager where you discuss all your questions can minimise interruptions through the week. If a colleague regularly asks you non-urgent questions, you can set up a regular meeting with that person to answer their queries at one time, rather than being interrupted multiple times.

You could also suggest to your team that you tackle interruptions as a team – such as by implementing team office hours.

3. Set realistic expectations

One of the most effective tips on how to manage interruptions is to be realistic with your time. Once you have scheduled focus time and office hours, it’s useful to communicate your routine with your colleagues and clients. For example, you could tell them that you’ll be offline during focus time and that they should not expect a fast response.

Some people set up out-of-office messages in their emails, to set realistic expectations for response times. By not responding to emails or texts straight away, you can condition others to be more patient, and give you more breathing room.

You can also encourage them to contact you during office hours when you will be able to focus on their needs and concerns.

4. Stay flexible

Of course, there will always be some unavoidable interruptions from genuine emergencies or urgent requests. Some tasks need to be dealt with when they arise. While you can schedule in time to deal with unanticipated tasks, it’s best to accept that even the best plans can change. Keeping an open mind can help you stay flexible and adapt as needed.

5. Deliver on time

how to be more productive

If you want to avoid interruptions, do the tasks related to them. Then you can spend more time on your work and less time explaining why you haven’t done it. Once you’ve built up a reputation for completing work on time, you’ll further reduce interruptions by avoiding the need for interim status updates.

Similarly, if you’re delegating tasks, make sure that you give clear instructions at the start so that people don’t need to follow up unnecessarily.

Help yourself by making sure that you are not the reason that someone has to interrupt, to chase you about an overdue task. Interruptions are a common challenge for many employees, but we can establish good habits to minimise them. Good habits take time and effort to build, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it right straight away. It’s worth learning how to manage interruptions, as it will help you become more productive.

At PEPworldwide, we have been helping teams increase their productivity over for 30 years. We have developed tailored programs to help you, regardless if you’re working remotely or in the office. Learn how PEP can help you increase your personal productivity.

By Simon Nicholls

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