When a co-worker drops in and asks to see you, how often do you say ‘No?’ Apparently not very often if the results of a study by Basex, a New York research firm are any indication.The study estimates interruptions consume approximately 28% of the average workday, resulting in $588 billion of lost productivity. It’s bad enough we stop what we are doing to handle an email, telephone call, text message or ‘drop in’ meeting. What’s worse is it can take up to 50% more time to complete tasks when you switch between them rather than complete one thing at a time.
Obviously, managing interruptions well is essential to maximizing productivity. So how can we improve?
First, we need to focus on our focus. We are not built to stay on task. Typical workers set aside whatever they are doing and start something else once every three minutes, so we have to make a commitment to focusing on the work at hand.
Time management experts often suggest scheduling ‘uninterruptible time’ during which the phone goes to voicemail, emails are ignored and your staff and co-workers know to avoid the dreaded ‘drop in’ meeting.
Another tactic involves managing interruptions so they are kept to a minute or two so you can help others but not completely lose focus on your current project.
You might also take the advice of Jim Collins, author of ‘Good to Great’ who says that the most effective people he has studied have a “stop-doing” or not-to-do list. Collins believes this is more important than a to-do list because the ‘not-to-do list’ frees up time and energy for more productive activities.
Regardless of the tactics you choose when managing interruptions, communicate your approach to your staff and co-workers. Let them know your most productive ‘work alone’ times and therefore when not to interrupt. And, ask them to tell you their preferences and show them you listened by respecting their time.