Do you find yourself getting interrupted too many times from doing the important work of your business? Congratulations! This is a common sign that means your business is growing, and that’s good news, right?
It may not feel like good news though, when you find yourself working late into the evening because you didn’t get that proposal out or that client project completed.
Let’s talk about 3 common types of interruptions and how to keep them from taking you off track.
Outside interruptions are phone, email or even text inquiries from clients, potential clients and vendors. They can also be sales calls and wrong number calls or other unimportant incoming calls or emails.
Some of the incoming is important and you need to be responsive to it. If you find yourself overwhelmed with these types of incoming requests for your attention and response, it’s probably time to hire someone to help you answer calls, deal with some client requests and provide information to prospects, set up appointments, etc. If you’re not ready to hire an employee to assist you, you may want to consider a reputable answering service or part-time virtual assistant.
I once had a client who was trying to run a million dollar business from the owner’s cell phone! Rerouting outside calls to an assistant was a lifesaver.
Inside interruptions come from employees and co-workers who stop by to chat, or ask questions on projects they are working on and need your input. If you find yourself rolling your eyes and speaking sharply to your employees when they interrupt you, it’s likely time to put some structure (procedures and boundaries) in place.
First of all, people need information and training to do their job well. (I won’t address here the problem of having the wrong people – that’s another topic). Set aside time as needed for training or explaining projects – this is time well invested. Also consider having “open door” available time and “closed door” unavailable time (whether or not you actually have a door on your office. If your people know that they can have access at specific times, they’ll be more respectful of the time you need to focus on your work. You can encourage your team to come to you with several discussion items batched rather than coming to you with one question at a time.
Self-imposed interruptions are the most insidious and trickiest to deal with. Do you find that you interrupt yourself or allow yourself to get distracted by an email or text coming in when you are supposed to be working on that big project or proposal that you wanted to get out today?
It’s a good strategy to close out distractions – shut your email and silence your phone when you need solid concentration time. Few things are so urgent that you can’t wait an hour to respond. If you have a life or death type of business, that’s different, but most of us don’t. Setting a voicemail message or email responder letting people know when to expect a call back is a good way to set expectations. A good technique for scheduling focused “sprints” of working time, followed by short break periods which you can use to check in with others is The Pomodoro Technique that I wrote about in an earlier blog post.
Next time you are feeling frustrated by an interruption, take some time to look at what’s behind it. Which of the 3 types of interruptions is taking you off track? Try out one of my suggestions. I’ll bet it will make your life easier.