Interruptions Intruding? 3 Timely Tips Restore Your Focus and Productivity!4 min read
Using solid time management strategies helps you prioritize, organize, and plan ahead. But once you have a plan, you also need solid skills for managing those inevitable interruptions that challenge your focus and your productivity.
Sharpening these skills will keep you on track. Neglecting them means that you’ll lose your focus, and your effectiveness and productivity will suffer.
Is this a familiar scenario? You have a deadline and each tick of the clock brings it closer, as you work hard to meet it. You are churning out creative ideas and ticking off items on your to-do list. Suddenly, someone pops into your office.
How do you feel when this distraction suddenly asks for your attention?
The thing is, you have to decide how to respond on the fly. This requires skills that are totally different from the skills you need to plan and prioritize ahead of time. And your response is very important, in 2 ways:
· The what of your response determines what happens, concretely and immediately, in the time that follows. Do you pause and spend time with the person? Do you stay on track and ask him or her to come back later?
· And how you respond can make you feel either empowered or depleted. Do you invite the person in but feel victimized by your choice? Does your response leave you feeling more or less in charge of yourself and your time? This significantly affects your energy as you move ahead.
So BEFORE the interruptions is the best time to plan for them. These 3 Timely Tips help you maintain effectiveness in a world where focused time is at a premium and interruptions are the norm.
How to Manage Interruptions
You can accomplish more and enjoy a boost in morale when you expect interruptions and have planned ahead for them. (And the distractions don’t have to be people – they can be ideas, interesting websites, you name it!)
The secret lies in creating proactive patterns. You redirect distractions to scheduled appointments. In doing that you give them their due while you protect your focus and priorities.
3 Tips to Keep You Focused, Effective and Flexible
1. Discover ways you actually invite interruptions from other people.
Document (with friendly energy) the ways that you reward people for interrupting you. For example, do you keep your door open? Look up and smile? There may be many ways that you subtly invite unscheduled visits.
Remember – this is not an exercise in self criticism; be sure to thank and validate yourself for each insight! This is a very practical and powerful way to start making more conscious choices and reclaiming your time. This is all entirely within your range of control!
2. Redirect interruptions to time you’ve reserved.
What time of day are you most productive? Block out that time, whenever possible, for activities you have prioritized in advance.
Next, choose a different part of the day for responding to requests and other things that pop up during the day. (Remember, this can be for external interruptions or for the good ideas and interesting news stories that can tug at your focus.) Estimate how much time you generally need to attend to these matters and then set that block of time aside, too, in your schedule. And if you have a hard time maintaining boundaries around this time, scheduling it as the last thing before lunch or before you leave work gives you with a clear endpoint.
Keep your appointment book open and nearby. As interruptions arise, schedule them in for the time you’ve reserved. Be specific and be sure to follow-through, whether your item involves another person or yourself alone. This builds trust in the fact that the issue will be addressed, and you can return to your work more quickly.
If some of your interruptions come via phone or e-mail, you can set up auto-responses to indicate that you’ll get back to people at a specified time of day.
3. Proactively reduce interruptions by anticipating needs.
Are there external interruptions that you can anticipate? Seize the initiative. Contact the person when it is convenient for you and set up a time to talk. Developing this habit strengthens your capacity to coordinate a constructive energy flow for yourself. What might have been an interruption is now one of your priorities!
As you explore your responses to interruptions, strive to see this as a time of investigation and experimentation. Look for fresh options to unfold, and be sure to encourage yourself by welcoming all the valuable lessons.
Taking the initiative when confronted with unexpected interruptions is very empowering! When you realize that your daily destiny is in your hands, that has an immediate and positive impact on your choices, your focus, and your productivity.