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Interruptions can hinder workflow and productivity more than you realize. It’s not just the time it takes to deal with it, but research shows it can take almost 30 minutes to refocus after the distraction.

Below are ten effective strategies for managing interruptions and even mitigating them altogether. Choose one strategy to implement for the week. Set a reminder in your calendar each day to reinforce your commitment. Let people whom the strategy might impact know what you are doing. Celebrate your progress after a few days, and choose another strategy to add next week. If things don’t go as planned, don’t worry. You can start again on Monday with renewed determination.

  1. Power Down Distractions: Research suggests that focusing for around 1.5 hours is optimal before attention wanes. Switch off your phone(s) during dedicated work periods.
  2. Email Etiquette: Set aside specific intervals for checking and responding to emails. For emails that require more involved responses; set a task and/or schedule them for another time and move on.
  3. Do Not Disturb Policy: Establish a “do not disturb” rule when your door is closed, even when you work from home. It’s a simple signal to visitors that you are unavailable at that moment.
  4. Time-Tracking: Monitor peak interruption periods for a few days and allocate flexible time slots in your schedule to accommodate them going forward.
  5. Communicate Availability: Clearly outline your availability in your voicemail and shared calendars. Record an outgoing voicemail message that informs callers of the best times to reach you or when you’ll return their calls.
  6. Optimize Filing Systems: Commit to using filing systems to minimize time spent searching for documents. This efficiency boost allows for smoother navigation of daily tasks.
  7. Standardized Operations: Redirect questions to an Operations Manual detailing office policies and procedures created to guide staff members.
  8. FAQ Resource: Supplement the Operations Manual with a dedicated FAQ section containing commonly asked questions and their answers, accessible to all.
  9. Structured Meetings: Conduct regular meetings with staff members to address non-urgent inquiries and provide consistent guidance and support.
  10. Personal Workflow Optimization: Maintain a clutter-free workspace, plan your day realistically with built-in buffer time, take notes during conversations, keep your filing system up-to-date, keep essential supplies nearby, and utilize a day planner to stay organized.

Some strategies to reduce the impact of interruptions and boost your productivity may feel like cutting access to you. If you schedule in time to work without interruption, it will enhance your accessibility to others—you can focus on them when it’s their turn. More extensive strategies, like an efficient filing system and company operations manual, will support this. We’re here to help if you need assistance setting those up.

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