Let’s talk about interruptions in the workplace. Most of the time they are an unwelcome distraction that sets you back in your schedule. When you get back to the work you were doing before you were swept away, you will likely say “what was I doing again?” The whole thing has set you back not only in your time, but also in your task since you will have to go back a few steps to see where you were before you left your desk.
There are ways to dramatically decrease the interruptions that come your way.
SET UP AVAILABLE TIMES
If you start your day already knowing that you’re going to need a certain amount of hours to get something done, go ahead and tell your coworkers. You can tell them in person before they start their day, or you can use a sign at your desk, informing others that you can’t talk at the moment. This will filter out any unimportant, “it can wait” type of interruptions. If they do interrupt you, it might actually be important and urgent (or it might be your boss).
IT’S OK TO SAY NO
If someone still interrupts you in the middle of your important task with something that can wait, it’s okay to say no. Be firm in your answer! If they see you’re on the edge, they’ll push you to help them. Simply tell them that you’d be happy to help them at a later time. Give them a time frame. Most people will be ok with waiting on you.
REFERENCE YOUR TASK
Another helpful way to eliminate interruption is to reference what you’re doing. You don’t have to provide a lot of detail, but allowing someone to know what you’re working on is more effective that delivering a flat out “no.” This way a person can understand where you’re coming from.
The same way you don’t like to be interrupted, you shouldn’t interrupt others. Sounds a lot like the “golden rule,” I know. Take these points into account before interrupting someone’s work.
USE EMAIL AND IM TO TALK TO OTHERS
There will be times that you might remember a question you needed to ask someone, or information you needed to give someone. You may have some free time to head over and talk to that person but that person might not have the same free time. In times like this, utilize email or IM. That way, you say what needs to be said and that person will see it when he/she can.
ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY MEETINGS
If you have the power to do so, eliminate meetings. Sometimes meetings can be productive, but a lot of the time, meetings only hinder productivity. If you can get the information out to people in an email, do that. Meetings only take time away from employees when they are doing important tasks. When the meeting ends, they will need to take the time to get back into the flow of doing their task.