Handling Interruptions Better

Interruptions are part of our daily work. We expect to interrupt and be interrupted.

Of course, too many interruptions leave us with too little time to get our stuff done. This can be quite frustrating.

Here are several ways to handle interruptions better.

When you are interrupted:

  1. Recognize you have more control. Often we allow interruptions (from email, phone, visitors to our desks) by default. We feel we have to allow interruptions out of guilt or because reacting to other people’s urgency seems more productive, somehow. As demonstrated in the following tips, you have more control than you think.
  2. Listen or read enough to know what the other person needs. If you can fulfill that need in just a minute or two, then do it.
  3. Agree on a “by when.” If you cannot quickly fulfill the need, then negotiate a time and date by which you will do the work. Scan your calendar then block the time you’ll use to do this work.
  4. Put it in your system of lists. Jot down their request and the “by when.” Put it into your hopper for later processing when you do your daily refresh.
  5. Stay friendly. This approach is not about becoming harsher or unconcerned about others’ requests. Maintain your respect and win-win attitude.

When you are interrupting another:

  • Ask permission. Ask if you may interrupt. If they say yes, great. If they say no, negotiate a time when you can come back.


To your continued success,


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