- Reduce Interruptions
- Organizing Phone Calls 1-2-3
- Controlling Office Interruptions
- Handling Last Minute Meetings
- Time Tactics for the Office
| Home Office & Home Office The Organized Time Clock Controlling Office Interruptions
Time ClockControlling Office Interruptions
How can you best control office interruptions? Discourage drop-by visitors, close your door, schedule check-in times and look at the root causes of disruptive interruptions.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from people is that they can't work for more than a few minutes without being interrupted. The result? A small project ends up taking all day, or you have to work into the evening because that's the only time you're not interrupted. An open-door policy sounds good in theory, but it can produce so many interruptions that it's hard to get anything done. The other extreme is equally unwise -- if you block off interruptions for several hours, a small problem you could have handled might turn into a crisis because you couldn't be reached. You need a balance between controlling interruptions and staying informed.
If you have very frequent drop-in visitors, perhaps the layout of your office invites interruptions. If you're next to the water cooler or copy machine, you need to add a visual and noise buffer. A strategically placed partition, even a large a file cabinet or potted plant can shield you. If your desk faces a busy hallway where people congregate, turn your desk at an angle to avoid eye contact with passersby. If you have a comfortable chair next to your desk, replace it with a hard, uninviting one, or remove the chair altogether. If chairs must stay, keep stuff on them, and don't move the stuff so the visitor can sit down unless he or she has a valid claim on more than a minute of your time -- people who can't find a place to sit will not linger long. I've heard a story about a man who sawed an inch off of the front two legs of his guest chair -- visitors' calf muscles soon tired of the effort required to keep them from sliding forward off their chair! I don't know if it's true, but it's inspiring, isn't it? Another option is to meet in the other person's office so you can leave when you choose.
Try closed-door work sessions
You can also control interruptions by establishing closed-door times, for say, two hours. Put a sign on your door (or on the outside wall of your cubicle) that you aren't to be interrupted unless it's an emergency. Use voice mail, or your secretary if you're fortunate enough to have one, to screen calls. Quiet hours work best when they're department-wide (even company wide) and at the same time.
Look at what causes the interruptions
It's helpful to look for patterns in the interruptions -- log your interruptions for a week. Note who, when, the reason, and how long. At end of the week, study the log to see which interruptions were unnecessary, and which could have been prevented by better planning or better communication.
People don't always interrupt out of thoughtlessness or a desire to socialize. If you're rarely available, people will interrupt you because they know they must grab you when they can. The solution is to schedule regular check-in times for updates from people you must talk to often; and ask them to save up their questions so they can cover several points at once. Your assistant could check in with you three times a day instead of 20. Make sure you give sufficiently detailed instruction to co-workers so they don't have to keep coming back to you with questions. Also, give them some leeway -- empower those you delegate to so they can decide some things on their own. Make it clear what questions are serious enough to warrant coming back to you, and let them use their judgment on the rest.
About the Author: Jan Jasper has been training busy people to work smarter, not harder since 1988. She helps clients streamline their systems and procedures, form optimum work habits, use technology efficiently, and manage information overload. Her specialty is helping people who've already worked with professional organizers and coaches and are still not able to get it all done. Jan is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press). She recently completed a North American media tour as the national efficiency spokesperson for IKON Office Solutions, Inc. In 2001, Jan was the office productivity expert for staples.com. She has appeared on radio and TV all over North America and is quoted regularly in print. Jan is currently on the board of the Tri-State Chapter (NY, NJ, & CT) of the National Speakers Association.