…Hi, Do you have a minute?”
It happens all the time doesn’t it – you are just starting to focus on that budget, or that quotation or that Blog and someone sidles up to the door jam and says… “Do you have a minute?”
What they really mean of course is “would you please stop doing what you are doing and help me with my problem”. And of course, being the supportive colleague you are, you do. And you hope you will scrape time together to finish your own important issue later.
So how do we deal with unexpected interruptions without appearing unsupportive or unapproachable? Well, a system that some of our team use is Green and Red time.
Green time is where you are busy (of course) but you are prepared to be interrupted and Red time is quality time for you to focus on an important issue. Red time is strictly uninterruptable. It is as if you were not there. There should be no exceptions (apart from a fire alarm I guess!).
Of course you could just shut your door if you want no interruptions – but it doesn’t stop someone knocking – and of course you need to answer – so that doesn’t work. For Red time to work you need to explain to everyone how your system works – that you will limit Red time to the absolute minimum needed to cover your critical tasks and that you will stop, say every 30 minutes, to see if there is anything urgent but, apart from that you ask them to respect your wish for clear uninterrupted concentration.
And concentration is the key – the brain works on different levels of consciousness and to give a task your best efforts you must only be thinking of one thing – the task itself. No distractions, no clutter on the desk, no phone calls and no interruptions.
If you have problems getting important tasks complete why not try a week with Red and Green time – maybe even have a Red time sticker on your door. If you can get the cooperation of your colleagues you will be amazed how much easier it is to actually concentrate and give important tasks the attention they deserve. You’ll notice a difference in your work ethic in no time!