Interruptions & Time Wasters

In a study by the University of California Irvine, researchers shadowed workers and studied their productivity. They found that 82% of all interrupted work is resumed on the day, BUT….. that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully get back to the task in hand after an unrelated interruption.

So if interrupted just five times throughout the day, that would absorb nearly two whole hours. Let’s try and reduce this with the following tips.


    Only check these at three set times throughout the day. Switch off your pop-up box or sound alert, so you are not tempted to take a look. You wouldn’t allow someone to just come into your office and say the first line of an enquiry and just wait for you to answer them? Well, that’s exactly what we are allowing by constantly being notified and therefore interrupted.


    A telephone is a great tool. It’s fast, personal and interactive but can really interrupt your productivity if not managed. Request that your calls are diverted or switch your mobile to silent: if it’s urgent, they’ll leave a message. If making calls and wish to avoid lengthy conversations, plan the points you need to cover beforehand to stay on track.

  3. SAYING ’NO’

    This may sound negative but saying ‘no’ nicely is a powerful tool when managing time. In truth, it’s not saying the word that concerns us; it’s the consequences. Without saying ‘yes’ but giving a positive response try:

    Thank you for asking me….

    That sounds interesting…

    I’m honoured to be asked….

    That’s really kind…..

    Avoid ‘but’ after these phrases and instead use words like ‘and’ and ‘however’ and follow with a valid reason, perhaps that you are already over-committed.


    Don’t be caught out by the gossipers, moaners or anyone else who is trying to engage you in a story. Don’t give them the opening their looking for and keep your head down!


    If you have a specific deadline to meet, make it clear that you are avoiding any interruptions for a limited time. Your colleagues will appreciate your honesty rather than cause any friction within the working environment.


    If you are interrupted for a valid reason, most people are happy to reschedule the discussion. If it sounds like it can be solved quickly, state you’ve got five minutes and stick to it. Join them in standing up and try and get to the point as quickly as possible. If the query is not resolvable within this time frame, schedule a meeting to follow it up.


    To keep a check on how much of an issue interruptions really are, you could create an ‘interrupters log’ to record the person, length of the interruption and whether it was valid or urgent. Review what action you could take by following these tips. If there are people who appear regularly on the log, ask them to keep a running list of issues they would like to discuss and schedule a time to go through them all at one meeting.

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