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Managing Interruptions – Part 2

November 10, 2010

As we talked about in a previous weekly tip , it can take up to 20 minutes to get back tthe level of concentration prior to the interruption (Organize your work day  – in no time, Karen McCorry).

These tips by Meryl Runion can help you manage your interruptions effectively:

  • Encourage interrupters to find their own answers, and help them discover howDON’T: automatically give answers they could find themselves.
    Why not?: It encourages them to ask you for answers because it’s easier for them, which discourages learning and self-sufficiency.
    DO: take the time (even though it increases the length of the interruption) to show them how they can access information themselves. For example you could say
    “I get that information from the procedures manual so you will know where to find it the next time”
  • Let people know when you’re particularly busy

    DON’T: use indirect signals or give someone the brush-off, hoping they’ll take the hint and leave you alone.
    Why not?: Indirect communication is passive-aggressive and unclear. People often take such signals personally.
    DO: tell them directly what your situation is. For example say  “Now is not a good time for me. I’ll be done with this at 3:00.“ (Or put up a sign that says, “Under deadline. Please give me until 3:00.”)
  • Respond to interruptions in a way that encourages the behavior you wantDON’T: minimize the impact and act too eager to drop everything, but also don’t act irritated and overly reluctant to respond.
    Why not?: If you act too eager, the interrupter assumes you welcome the interruption and is more likely to interrupt in the future. If you act too reluctant, the interrupter might hesitate to interrupt at a time they really need you.
    DO: be clear, pleasant and professional. For example say
    “I’m working on an urgent proposal, but let’s see if I can help you quickly.”
You can find the full article here.
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