Interruptions Intruding? 3 Timely Tips Restore Your Focus and Productivity

Time and energy
Interruptions needn’t throw you…

Interruptions sometimes trip all of us up. But the more you develop strategies for dealing with them, the less time you’ll lose.

Using solid time management strategies helps you prioritize, organize, and plan ahead. But once you have a plan, you also need solid skills for managing those inevitable interruptions that challenge your focus and your productivity. 

Interruptions 101: Does This Sound Familiar?

Here’s a scenario that may ring a bell for you:  You have a deadline and each tick of the clock brings it closer, as you work hard to meet it.  You are churning out creative ideas and checking off items on your to-do list.  Suddenly, someone pops into your office.

How do you feel when this distraction suddenly tugs on you, asking for your attention?

The thing is, you have to decide how to respond on the fly. This requires skills that are totally different from the skills you need to plan and prioritize ahead of time. 

Your response is important in 2 ways:

  • The what of your response determines what happens in the time that follows.  Do you pause and spend time with the person?  Do you stay on track and ask them to come back later? 
     
  • And how you respond can make you feel either empowered or depleted.
    • Do you invite the person in but feel victimized by your choice? 
    • Does your response leave you feeling more or less in charge of yourself and your time? 
    • Be aware that this significantly affects your energy as you move ahead.

So the best time to plan for interruptions is BEFORE they occur.

How to Manage Interruptions

The following 3 Timely Tips help you maintain effectiveness in a world where focused time is at a premium and interruptions are the norm. You can accomplish more and enjoy a boost in morale when you expect interruptions and have planned ahead for them.  (And the distractions don’t have to be people – they can be ideas, interesting websites, you name it.) 

The secret lies in creating proactive patterns.  For example, one of your responses can be that you redirect distractions to scheduled appointments.  In doing that you give them their due while you protect your focus and priorities.

1. Discover ways you actually invite interruptions from other people. 

List, without judgment, the ways that you reward people when they interrupt you. For example, do you keep your door open? Look up and smile? There may be many ways that you subtly invite unscheduled visits.

Remember – this is not an exercise in self-criticism; be sure to thank and validate yourself for each insight.  This is a practical and powerful way to start making more conscious choices and reclaiming your time. 

2. Redirect interruptions to time you’ve reserved.

What time of day are you most productive? Block out that time, whenever possible, for activities you have prioritized in advance.

Next, choose a different part of the day for responding to requests and other things that pop up during the day.  This can be used for external interruptions or for the good ideas and interesting news stories that can tug at your focus.  Estimate how much time you need and then set that block of time aside, too, in your schedule.  And if you have a hard time maintaining boundaries around this time, scheduling it as the last thing before lunch or before you leave work gives you a clear endpoint.

Keep your appointment book open and nearby. As interruptions arise, schedule them in for the time you’ve reserved. And if some of your interruptions come via phone or e-mail, you can set up auto-responses to indicate that you’ll get back to people at a specified time of day.

3. Proactively reduce interruptions by anticipating needs.

Are there external interruptions that you can anticipate? Take initiative by contacting the person when it is convenient for you and setting up a time to talk.  What might have been an interruption is transformed into one of your priorities.

As you explore your responses to interruptions, strive to see this as a time of investigation and experimentation.  Look for fresh options to unfold, and be sure to encourage yourself by welcoming all the valuable lessons.

And taking the initiative when confronted with unexpected interruptions is very empowering.  When you realize that your daily destiny is in your hands, that has an immediate and positive impact on your choices, your focus, and your productivity.

Here’s more help…

How often do distractions and interruptions pull you off track? If you feel thwarted by some of your own choices, learn to support yourself by setting and maintaining meaningful inner boundaries.  My complimentary Inner Boundary Checklist is designed to help you do just that. 

Use this powerful Checklist with 15 simple steps to set and maintain strong, clear internal boundaries. The Inner Boundary Checklist helps you follow through on what you say you will do. Click this link to give yourself this complimentary tool today.

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