Interruption Reduction: How to Reduce the Interruptions from Your Full-Time Team and Boost Productivity for All

DND Do you have an on-site staff to which you delegate regularly? Or do you have a virtual team supporting you on a regular basis?

No matter which circumstance you may have, you may be fielding lots of questions or updates from your team members on any number of tasks or projects on an hourly basis. You may receive phone calls, instant messages or countless e-mails from your team all day long. You also may receive personal visits if you share an office space together.

Does this sound like you and your current situation?

If so, these interruptions are breaking your train of thought, breaking up your day and breaking your stride when it comes to getting things done. They chop up the day for you and your team members and cause you lost time, efficiency and concentration.

And just for a second, let’s turn the tables. Are YOU interrupting your team all day long with interruptions in the form of calls, e-mails, shouts or visits? Over the years I’ve heard from many people in the companies in which I consult that their boss (usually my client) is the worst offender of all!

So I want to share with you how you can minimize the interruptions, keep more time for yourself and get more work accomplished from day to day. Plus, your team will get more accomplished and keep their focus better, too.

One of the biggest solutions to these kinds of interruptions is having regular meetings. Now before you roll your eyes and think, “No… not one more meeting on my schedule,” just hear me out.

When I say “meeting,” it could be a 10 minute visit or phone call at a certain time of day. Or it could be twice a day or once a week.

It all depends on…

  1. How much you’ve delegated to your team member
  2. How many projects and tasks are currently underway
  3. How many or what kind of tasks are deadline driven or time sensitive
  4. Whether or not your team member is new and still learning

Given the answers, you’ll be able to gauge how often you want to “meet” with each team member. And once you put this into action, you’ll see how often you can do this and with whom. It may not work all the time, but then again… it might! You’ll have to try it out and see how it works for you.

You have a few options you can use starting today…

  1. If you have a team member who does a LOT of work for you and you’re constantly getting calls or e-mails, consider scheduling a call or visit once a day or twice a day to “channel” these questions and updates between you and your team member.
  2. If you have a team member who is doing only one or two tasks for you and you only occasionally get questions or updates throughout the week, consider scheduling a call or visit once or twice a week to “channel” these interruptions too. Perhaps a call on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or maybe Monday-Wednesday-Friday.

The length of these calls or visits depends, again, on how much you have to cover. In many cases, 10 minutes a day might be all you need.

How do these meetings reduce interruptions?

It reduces interruptions because you can tell each team member that this is their chance to “save up” their questions and updates for the scheduled call or meeting and they’re not to interrupt you throughout the day any more, barring any emergencies.

But be forewarned, this includes you, too! Can you hold your questions? Can you hold your assignments and updates? Again, barring any emergencies, think about saving up instead of bouncing out of your chair, grabbing for the phone or starting a new e-mail string.

This approach is the difference between allowing people to “push” their questions or updates (interruptions) to you all day long and you “pulling” the information at scheduled times.

When you have a conversation with someone, you can be so much more efficient and since questions inevitably pop up after giving a new assignment, you can answer them at the same time instead of using back and forth e-mails.

No matter what kind of meeting schedule you decide on, you should both hold your questions and updates when they occur to you. List them somewhere (electronically, I suggest) and when you have your call or brief meeting, you can refer to your lists and knock things out.

And in the case of emergencies, you must define “emergency” so everyone knows when it’s OK to break this rule. If you’re working on a time-sensitive project or issue, then you should agree about when to open communication outside of your newly scheduled visits or calls.

Also, if you have multiple team members all working on the same project, you can get together once a week to go over updates, questions and next steps. Otherwise, for team members who need individual time with you, consider scheduling a series of 10 minute calls or visits with each one in succession so you can be interruption-free for the rest of the day.

Once you accomplish these brief calls or meetings, then everyone can get back to their priorities… quietly, productively and uninterrupted.

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