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Improve Productivity by Controlling Interruptions

Everyday interruptions at work can be a key barrier to managing your time effectively and, ultimately, can be a barrier to your success.  The working day can be hectic enough without regular interruptions from your co-workers, your email inbox, and the smartphone in your pocket.

If you have your own office, close your door to discourage interruptions when you have important work to do.  An “Open door policy” means only that people should be able to get your help (to open your door) when necessary.  An office door standing open invites people to stop and chat for a moment.  If it is closed, they assume that you are busy and think no more about it.

For those people who work in open plan environments, a closed door is not possible.  Arranging your work area or work station so your back is turned to people passing by lets them know you are concentrating on work but available if they have a pressing reason for interrupting you.  Find a system that works for your situation to set communicated and realistic boundaries, yet provides reasonable accessibility.  The development of a signal amongst your co-workers lets them know you don’t wish to be disturbed.  This could be the placement of an item on your desk or hanging a scarf over the end of your workstation.  A simple technique is to just tell people the times you prefer to be available to them or to return calls.  Remember, if you are not working on your priorities, you are probably working on someone else’s priorities.

If you answer your own telephone, don’t let it control you.  Put it on Do Not Disturb and allow your voicemail to pick up messages if you are in the middle of focused work.  You can return the calls when you have completed your imperative and important activities.

If you have a receptionist or assistant who answers your telephone, ask them to hold your calls and give your messages to you all at one time.  Reserve a particular time during the morning and again during the afternoon to return all telephone calls.  Train this person how to recognise important calls that should be put through immediately and how to handle other callers politely whilst still protecting your time.

If you found these tips helpful, please check out our FREE LMA resources available here to download.  These resources cover a range of procedures from team work analysis to communication, leadership and productivity.