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Productivity, uninterrupted

July 9, 2010

Do you find your best productive time interrupted by…well, interruptions?

Can you sign this… Where do I… Which department is responsible for… Our best client needs… The list of potential interruptions is endless, but not all requests are created equal, and some of your time must be generally uninterruptible.

First off, many things commonly classified as interruptions only feel that way because we fail to schedule time for the unplanned legitimate needs of others, such as direct reports…documents requiring your signature, your concurrence with decisions, or the application of your particular expertise to a pressing matter, for example. Schedule these blocks of staff time as depicted below, and you will find yourself interrupted much less often for routine matters.

The next step is to identify categories of interruptibility that enable those you manage – or who manage your calendar – to know how best to help you be productive.

By way of example, I recommend the following:

1. Interrupt Immediately (urgent client needs that can’t be met by others, urgent requests from senior executives or senior stakeholders, or emergencies)

2. Interrupt Later (important, time-sensitive issues that cannot wait for scheduling or staff time, and that can’t be answered by others)

3. Hold For Staff Time (required signatures on routine or non-urgent correspondence, non-urgent questions, responses to non-urgent actions from you, or requests for you to consider over time)

4. Don’t Interrupt – Refer To Others (any items that don’t require your expertise to answer, items addressed by policy manuals or websites, or questions best answered by other departments or managers)

Effective application of these principles by you and your staff or coworkers will depend upon clear communication of expectations and mutual commitments, but it will pay great dividends.

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