Managing interruptions = Managing expectations

Have you noticed how many interruptions there are in any given day? Maybe you even find yourself grumbling about all the interruptions?

“I could get this project done if the phone would just stop ringing!”

“I had so many emails coming in I just couldn’t get focused on anything today!”

“Even though I had my door closed, people kept popping in with ‘this will only take a sec!'”

“My desk is such a disaster, I spent half the day looking for the report I needed!”

Been there. Done that. It is no wonder we are a culture operating with a high level of inability to focus! It is pretty clear that more and more we need to be very proactive in managing the interruptions. But how can we do that?

Part of it, I think, comes from being able to manage expectations – our own and others’. What do I mean? Well, if you expect to get a certain piece of work done, but you know it will take 8 hours of focused action, and you (1) only schedule 4 hours, and (2) allow yourself to answer the phone and check email during that time – then you are not doing a very good job of managing your own expectations. And you will be disappointed.

If you let your phone go to voicemail, and don’t check your email, and you haven’t set up anything to manage the expectations of the people attempting to contact you – you will end up with multiple messages from the same person, most probably expressing an increasing level of frustration and annoyance, and you could end up alienating a key client, friend or colleague.

How can you overcome this?

First, identify the interruptions:

  • phone calls
  • email
  • having to locate resources
  • people dropping by
  • your preferred method of procrastination
  • etc.

Second, identify the expectations:

  • a prompt response to phone or email messages
  • resources are available
  • project/task will be completed on time
  • etc.

Finally, identify the communication needed that will allow you to manage those expectations.

More on that in the next post…