Improving Productivity at Work - Managing Interruptions

By Vikas Rana

Amongst the myriads of factors that affect workplace productivity, interruptions are increasingly being recognised for their dampening effects on efficiency in the workplace.

Whether it is the constant stream of emails, somebody on the phone or a colleague who drops by with a query, interruptions can hamper our focus on the task at hand and make it harder to get back to them. In this age of mobile devices it is also especially easy to get distracted by ubiquitous information updates and the correspondence available at our finger tips.

Such is the case now that research points to almost 28% of the workday being occupied with interruptions for a typical professional.

Conducted by Basex, a technology research firm, the survey also finds that an employee may only be able to focus for 11 minutes on a task before being interrupted and then may not be able to get back to it for at least another 25 minutes. An even grimmer picture is painted by some other studies that find professionals being interrupted, on average, every 3 – 8 minutes with each interruption bringing with it a 25 per cent chance of the original task being abandoned for the day.

With so much of our time and energy being devoted to tackling interruptions, it is important that we begin to recognise and deal with them so as to be able to give our best to our actual work.

Steps to Manage Interruptions

An important first step in this direction is to realise that being constantly available may not always be the best thing. While it may seem that getting to every phone call or being constantly updated about all the emails in your inbox is essential to stay on top of things, in many cases too much of it can detract from your ability to perform your work well.

It can also be beneficial to plan in advance when doing significant tasks so as to surround yourself with all the resources you need as this can help in preventing unnecessary distractions and loss of time in getting things done on the day(s). Additionally, to get a better idea of the most common interruptions, it can also be helpful to monitor a typical workday and pick out things that distract. It can then become easier to get rid of these, if not entirely, then at least in certain designated periods that you could schedule to work stringently only on crucial work projects.

Thus by taking greater control of our work environments, we can attempt to ensure that we deliver our best where it matters the most.