Kevan Hall offers five basic ways of dealing with the three major workday ‘interruptions’: email, people and ‘phone calls, typical of most working environments, but particularly pronounced when working in a matrix.
(1) Limit interruptions to specific times.
To prevent interruptions and allow you to focus, research has demonstrated that checking emails two to four times per day is optimal. Some reports have shown people checking emails obsessively, over 150 times per day in some cases. If you work in an office, close the door, or agree some signal with your colleagues on when you do not want to be interrupted.
(2) Be tough with yourself about dealing with interruptions.
Make a quick decision about whether to deal with it immediately or park it and return to your original task. Write it down to free your mind to let go of it.
(3) Develop a strategy for fast re-engagement with your original task.
Leaving a document open or writing a quick post-it of where you were up to before dealing with the interruption can help you quickly pick up the task again.
(4) Interruptions don’t need to become major distractions.
When an interruption happens, don’t allow this to drag you into two or three other tasks (which is what usually happens). If the original task was important – get straight back to it and complete it.
(5) Have a plan.
A clear plan or prioritised action list prominently displayed at your workspace can help stop you bouncing into activity for its own sake.
Don’t forget that prevention is better than a cure: we can often prevent the interruption in the first place by not checking emails so regularly, by working from home, or putting on voicemail to screen calls.
Further information about building the people capability to make complex organizations faster, less expensive to run and more satisfying to work in can be found on the Global Integration website and blog.