Protecting yourself from interruptions

Quick - without thinking about it for more than a few seconds, name your biggest time management problem.

Let me guess: Could it be continual interruptions? If so, you have lots of company. To assist you with this ongoing challenge, here are several techniques for controlling interruptions at work.

Telephone

Immediately after greeting a caller, ask, "What can I do for you?" (Not "How are you?")

After caller states his/her purpose, silently set a limit for the conversation and write this on a note you can see as you're talking.

If a call you are making is answered by a machine, leave your entire message instead of only a request for a callback.

Get callers used to specific callback hours with a message such as "Please call me back between 4 and 5.30 p.m. any day of the week?

Office visits

Close your door part way. This is a very effective visit-deterrent that still communicates, "I'm available if needed."

Before visitors sit down, stand up (to shake their hand, adjust blinds, etc and then remain standing while you chat.

Have a clock clearly visible.

If practical, institute a closed-door policy for a maximum of two hours a day, preferably during your prime productivity period.

Subordinate/Support staff

Ask subordinates who often interrupt to make lists of questions. When they have five or more, suggest that they leave them in your in-tray or on voice mail.

Always give clear and complete instructions, together with this request: "I'd prefer you to take notes, because I find it cuts down on any questions later."

Communicate positive expectations by saying things such as, "I know I can count on you to figure out how to do this with a minimum of direction from me."

When subordinates go through a day or a project without interrupting you, comment appreciatively.

General

Telephone

Immediately after greeting a caller, ask, "What can I do for you?" (Not "How are you?")

After caller states his/her purpose, silently set a limit for the conversation and write this on a note you can see as you're talking.

If a call you are making is answered by a machine, leave your entire message instead of only a request for a callback.

Get callers used to specific callback hours with a message such as "Please call me back between 4 and 5.30 p.m. any day of the week?

Office visits

Close your door part way. This is a very effective visit-deterrent that still communicates, "I'm available if needed."

Before visitors sit down, stand up (to shake their hand, adjust blinds, etc and then remain standing while you chat.

Have a clock clearly visible.

If practical, institute a closed-door policy for a maximum of two hours a day, preferably during your prime productivity period.

Subordinate/Support staff

Ask subordinates who often interrupt to make lists of questions. When they have five or more, suggest that they leave them in your in-tray or on voice mail.

Always give clear and complete instructions, together with this request: "I'd prefer you to take notes, because I find it cuts down on any questions later."

Communicate positive expectations by saying things such as, "I know I can count on you to figure out how to do this with a minimum of direction from me."

When subordinates go through a day or a project without interrupting you, comment appreciatively.

General