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Dealing With Interruptions for Increased Productivity!

SERIES: Part Four of a Five-Part Article

Executive Summary: Fast, non-threatening, tactical ways to transition what may be a time-wasting interruption into a productive, polite engagement.

When a friend stops by, calls or sends you an e-mail, it is not noticed or seen as an interruption. When anyone else stops by, calls or sends an uninvited e-mail, it is seen as an interruption and causes most people in the workplace to go ballistic!

Both are interruptions and cause American businesses and government agencies millions of dollars in lost productivity and mental peak performance every day.

Here are some fast, non-threatening, tactical ways to transition what may be a time-wasting interruption into a productive, polite engagement. Consider:

1.   Telephone Interruption “Thank you for calling. I want to give you my undivided attention, and this is a bad time. What is your number, and when is a good time later today to call you back?” If the caller is a telemarketer, you can always play the Jerry Seinfeld game: “If you will give me your name and home phone number, I will call you back later…”

2.   Telephone Call Lasting Too Long “I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you, but I know you are a very busy person with a lot to do, so is there anything else (insert specific topic or question) before I let you go?”

3.   Walk-in Traffic When someone comes to your desk unannounced, immediately stand up and ask, “Yes? How can I assist you?” This change in posture will, in most instances, evoke from the other party a question like, “Do you have a moment?” This is your opening to be polite yet stern by saying, “Yes, I have a second. What specifically do you need?” This will conversationally direct them to get to the point and not go into idle, brainless diatribes.

4.   Walk-in Traffic That Does Not Leave Several tactical engagement interventions can be deployed here. Start by not making your work area conducive for people to gather: remove chairs; put our jacket, brief case or something else in the chair so you control when you want someone to sit in it; angle seating so you get the good view, and they get the wall; shut your door with a sign that mentions it is your “Quiet Time.” Another powerful conversion tactic is to grab something that needs to be filed, hand them part of the stack and politely say something like, “Here, let’s walk, talk and head to the cabinet. I need to file these while we are talking, and you can help me.”

5.   Uninvited E-mailsYou have two options.  You can outright ignore the sender and hope they will get a clue that you respond to business – not personal – e-mails and eventually reduce or eliminate the use of e-mails on a personal basis. You can also gather all of their uninvited e-mails and respond to them one at a time, thus blitzing their e-mail box!

6.   Mail If you know mail is unsolicited, don’t even waste your time opening it.  Rather, simply throw it all away. If it is important, you can bank the fact it will be mailed to you again!

7.   Meetings At the precise moment you realize there is nothing else on an agenda that involves you, politely look for a conversational opening and say something threatening like, “Unless you all really need me, I don’t want to hold you back. Should I should be getting back to work?”

Undesired interruptions can derail mental creativity, concentration and overall productivity in the workplace every day. As a leader, how you non-confrontationally manage the environment and situations will drive the daily output.

Tell us about how you have handled situations at your place of business.



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