4 ways to deal with interruptions

How do you handle interruptions?

One of the biggest problems you’re dealing with at work is probably interruptions. And it’s also one of the biggest excuses you’re using for not getting your stuff done.

Of course, there are times you just can’t avoid being interrupted, especially if it’s your supervisor who’s interrupting you. There are so many more times you allow yourself to be interrupted and then blame it on someone else.

The fact of the matter is most people experience interruptions but don’t realize that very often they are the ones in the driver’s seat, not the person interrupting.

The reasons you allow interruptions can be wide-ranging, but most often they’re driven by your inability or unwillingness to be “less than friendly” to people. For whatever reason, you don’t know how to say no.

Here are a few pointers on decreasing the interruptions in your life:

1. Understand the nature of the beast

Do you know who you can say no to and who’s a priority? If you say yes to everyone, then no one’s a priority and you’ll allow anyone and everyone interrupt you. If you don’t have to accept the interruption, but you do anyway, that’s on you, not the other person. The key is knowing whether you have to be accessible to everyone all the time.

2. Think in advance 

Decide how you’re going to handle interruptions before they happen. Most of us will get flustered if we have to make the decision in the heat of the moment and we’ll most likely allow the interruption. The basic reason is you haven’t thought through what you want and how you’re going to get it. When you know what you want, you will also determine how you’re going to respond to people who take you away from getting what you want. This reduces the temptation of saying yes when you really need to say no. 

3. Control the telephone

Contrary to popular belief, a ringing telephone does not have to be answered (unless that’s part of your job). Decrease the likelihood of being interrupted by turning off the ringer. If your phone lights up when it rings, turn it around. Screen your calls or have your assistant answer the phone (if you have one). Some people let calls go to voicemail and have a message that says, “Hi, you’ve reached John. I return calls from 11:00 a.m. to noon and 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.. I will definitely get back to you today.”

4. Avoid the unwanted visitor 

Are people stopping by your office all the time? If so, they mean well, but it throws off your focus and momentum. If you have people who come by just to visit, keep a pile of books on the chair so they can’t sit down and settle in. If you need a coffee refill, talk with them on the way to get coffee. Then, drop them back at their office. Simply say you’re busy and can’t talk at the moment; you’d be happy to catch up with them later—maybe over lunch or after work. 

These are just a few of the many ways to reduce interruptions in your life.


About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

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