How many times a week do you start the day with a well intentioned to-do list, and end the day asking “where did the day go?”  As business owners, we already fragment our attention by wearing many hats in the business.  Then on top of it we are interrupted on average 7x/hour - other’s urgent ad hoc requests, crises, other people’s chattiness, etc. Studies show it can take us anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes to reset our concentration back on our original task.  We can spend up to 2.1 hours a day on distractions.  That’s where the day goes!   

The #1 wish I hear from business owners about their productivity is to have more uninterrupted time to think and complete work.  

You may have thought that since interruptions originate with another person, they need to be the one to stop it.  But you have more control than you think. Even though you can’t control other people and when they will distract you, you CAN control your own response to them.  

From now on you can ACT on interruptions. That’s an acronym for the 3 choices you can make in response to any interruption.  You can:

A: Allow or Accept
C: Cut it off at the Pass or Curtail
T: Triage

Accept or Allow: If you decide an interruption is as or more important than whatever you are currently doing, Accept or Allow it. Give it your full attention.  Resolve the issue. Choose to accept or allow interruptions only if they meet your pre-set criteria, thus you need to make some thoughtful and strict criteria before you get into the situation. Your criteria for when to Accept an interruption might include:

  • Your client expects real time availability (you know this because you’ve asked, not because you assume it).
  • There’s a significant risk to your level of service.
  • An important or income-generating project needs your input to move forward.
  • The interrupter is a mutually supportive friend who generally doesn’t waste your time.
  • There’s a personal or family emergency.

Cut it off at the Pass, or Curtail:

  • Prevention!  Make a list of your most frequent sources of interruptions and distractions then problem solve them away.
  • Schedule buffer times each day to deal with answering emails,unexpected requests, vet new opportunities, rather than interrupting what you are doing.
  • Silence email notifications, ringers, etc. to create uninterrupted work time.
  • Schedule interruptions: have frequent brief check-ins instead of get calls and emails all day long; hold “office hours” so people know when to contact you or expect a call back; if your direct reports or assistant are the source of interruptions, give them clear guidelines on what matters are appropriate to interrupt you about. Teach them how you think about solving problems, let them know you consider them capable of solving problems and that you will be evaluating their performance based on how much they take ownership of situations.
  • Assemble a FAQ document with comprehensive answers to frequent questions – and include a reference to it on your voicemail or signature line of your email.

Triage: Allow a brief interaction between you and the interrupter solely to determine how to deal with the interruption.  Just like the Emergency Room nurse, pointedly (but pleasantly) ask a few questions that will give you clarity on the situation and enable you to tell the interrupter your plan for when/how you will respond. The right questions can help you craft a mutually satisfying plan – or even help you determine that you don’t need to get involved at all. Make a list of three to five questions that are relevant for your circumstances. Post them in your office so you can easily refer to them in the heat of the moment.

Take back control of your day and start adding back 2.1 more hours of productive time to grow your business!

Republished by permission, FreeEnterprise.com, in agreement with NY Enterprise Report. Copyright© is owned by the author of this article. FreeEnterprise.com is your home for free market news and ideas. 

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