Learn to Control Interruptions

Posted by Todd Smith

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One of the most basic fundamentals of good time management is to focus on one thing at a time. I read an article a while back that said every time you allow an interruption, you lose ten minutes of productivity. One could argue whether ten minutes is an accurate number, but regardless, productive and successful people control interruptions.

If you’re interrupted while working on a task, not only is the interruption itself often a waste of time, but when you resume your work, it takes time to gather your thoughts and return to your original state of focus before the interruption occurred.

If you value your time and want to improve your time-management skills, here are four tips to assist you in avoiding interruptions:

1.  Turn off ALL notifications on your computer. This includes everything from social media sites to your e-mail program. Instead, block out windows of time to return e-mails and visit your social media sites.

In my case, I check e-mails two to three times a day and check my social media sites one to two times a day.

2. Turn off ALL notifications on your cell phone device. Unless your job requires you to respond immediately to messages, consider putting your phone on silent or do-not-disturb mode.  If an instantaneous response is not necessary, return messages during breaks between tasks or during windows of time you allocate for such responsibilities.

As an entrepreneur for the last several decades, I value the importance of generating sales and providing a high level of customer service. But I also know that I don’t need to drop what I am doing and disrupt my thought process every time someone calls, texts, or e-mails me.

3. Resist the temptation to accept unscheduled phone calls. If a caller has not scheduled a specific time to talk to you and they consistently get your voicemail, they will soon learn the value of setting an appointment.

While I don’t require my family and close friends to schedule calls with me, I still maintain established boundaries to prevent unnecessary interruptions. My family understands the value of my time and knows not to interrupt me unless it is an emergency. They also know that spending time with my family is important to me and I will do my utmost to prevent others from interrupting our time together.

4. Learn to control interruptions in the workplace. Now I realize that everyone’s job description is different, but if your job affords you the ability to control your schedule, make it a priority to minimize interruptions. You will need to set some parameters for your co-workers and honestly, they will be happier if they know the rules. For example, you may want to establish blocks of time for certain activities and explain to your colleagues that you don’t want to be interrupted unless there is something that absolutely requires your immediate attention.

Writing these blog posts is a perfect example of how I block out time to focus on my projects. I know I am at my best first thing in the morning, so I allocate from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for my writing. I don’t schedule calls, accept calls, or answer e-mails during this block of time. I have also asked my wife and kids to respect this time by not interrupting me.

I realize that with any time-management technique, there will always be exceptions, and controlling interruptions is no different. Your first step is to recognize that you don’t need to be available every time someone wants to reach you. Take control of how your time is spent rather than allowing others to control it.

When you value your time and control how you spend it, others will value your time, and their respect for you will grow.

About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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