How to Deal When People Keep Interrupting You Mid-Task

  September 20, 2018

“Stop interrupting me while I am interrupting you.”
– WINSTON CHURCHILL

The above image is a GIF from the movie The Darkest Hour. Churchill was played by the amazing Gary Oldman. This quote is sometimes written as, “Don’t interrupt me while I’m interrupting you.”

I know everyone has had that thought at the end of a workday at some point. This takes quite a toll on workplace satisfaction, but it’s nothing compared to the steep hit your productivity takes.

Being interrupted at work mid-task is a detrimentally unproductive workplace norm. According to a study performed at the University of California – Irvine, a manager gets interrupted, on average, every three minutes at work.¹

Picture this. If you get interrupted every 3 minutes at work, it can also take you up to 23 minutes to get re-engaged in the task you were performing. This can add up to losing full hours each day. Likewise, The Washington Post also reported that workplace interruptions can cost workers up to 6 hours each day.³ YIKES!

Of course, when you lose that many hours, it’s financially quite costly. The numbers vary on this point costing organizations in the US somewhere between $500 billion and $1 trillion each year. (Yikes, again.)²⁴

5 Ways To Get A Handle on Workplace Interruptions:

#1 – Add blocks of focused work time to your calendar.

Tell your employees that you are not to be disturbed during this time frame no matter what. You know – unless there’s a fire and you should leave the building. Telling other in advance to not interrupt you will help reduce the likelihood of face to face encounters, which can derail you big-time.

#2 – Be considerate of others. As in – hesitate to interrupt your fellow coworker.

Just as much you have work to do, others do as well. Be considerate with interrupting someone who is working hard and only do so if you absolutely need to. Having a question is a better reason to interrupt someone than to shoot the breeze about the game last night.

#3 – Work remotely or in private, when you can.

Working remotely or in private (instead of in an open office environment) can boost productivity and reduce distractions considerably. Since the most prevalent type of distraction is face to face interaction, you get much more done when you’re alone.

#4 – Disable notifications.

On iPhone, you can enable night mode during the day to avoid digital disturbances using the moon icon and swiping up from the bottom of your phone. This quick tip will hold your calls, push notifications from social media, text messages, and email pings until you turn night mode off. It’s beyond handy! On Android phones, it’s called Nougat+ and it does the same thing.

Oh and DO NOT, I repeat, do not keep your email open in the background while you’re on task.

#5 – Audit how your spending your time.

One of the great resources we shared in this newsletter was for a company called RescueTime which is an app you can use to audit your behavior online and during your work day. This app is just *one* tool for auditing your time. It can also be immensely powerful to write down your own log of time. It sounds like another thing to do, I know – but logging your accomplishments actually boosts how much you get done! And, even better, it will be impossible to think you accomplished nothing during your workday once you see all you do!

If you or someone you know would like to talk more about how to stop multi-tasking and improve productivity, please hit reply and let me know. I can help.

Your Business Coach and Consultant,
Theresa Valade, CEO

¹Forbes, 2017.
²RescueTime, 2018.
³
The Washington Post, 2015.
⁴Training Magazine, 2017.

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