The Secret to Handling Interruptions

No matter your title or industry, as human beings existing in the world, we are going to be interrupted all day long. There will always be things that crop up during your workday, competing for your attention.

Secret to Handling Interruptions

But to ensure we get done the things we absolutely need to get done each day, we have to stop and ask ourselves: Is this the best, most opportune time to do this thing? Or can it wait?

People are so afraid to turn anyone down these days. They think if their phone is ringing, they have it answer it immediately.

If someone walks into their office, they must stop whatever they’re doing and talk to them at that exact moment. If someone is ringing the doorbell, they need to run to answer it right away. If the dog is standing at the door asking to go out, they need to take care of it immediately.

Stop and think about these things. Can the dog wait three more minutes to go outside? Can the UPS man just leave the package on the porch? Can you set up another time to chat with your colleague? Can you let that call go to voicemail? We’re trying to do too many things!

Take Back the Control

All day long, even when you don’t realize you’re doing it, you’re making decisions. And when it comes to the choices you make about how you spend your time, they can be a crucial determining factor in your productivity and profitability.

When you have control over your time, it’s easier to make split-second decisions about priorities when you’re faced with interruptions. You’re less likely to find yourself overwhelmed because your email app is dinging when the phone starts ringing just as there is a knock at your office door!

Someone walked into my office recently, buzzing with excitement from a meeting they’d just had and wanting to tell me all about it. I was excited to hear about it too, and I could have easily stayed there for five more minutes listening to them talk, but it would’ve made me late for a call I had on the books.

Instead, I listened to them attentively while popping in my earbud and dialing into the call. This person knew I had a previous commitment, so as soon as my meeting partner came on the line, they stepped away. I immediately switched gears and dove into the call.

When you’re in control of your time and your day, you’ll be more willing (and able) to make those sorts of quick pivots. Then, when you wrap up that call or meeting or whatever commitment you had previously, you can rejoin the conversation with that person and give them your absolute undivided attention. You can enjoy engaging fully with them without having to worry about rushing or being late for another commitment.

Stop Doing Things Halfway

If you try to throw a little attention at every single thing that pops up throughout your day, you’ll half-ass everything. Nobody and nothing is getting your full time and energy.

Just winging it like this will have you all over the map. Your productivity will go down, and you’ll end your days feeling like you’ve gotten nothing done.

Distractions will never stop coming. They’ll come at you all day from every direction, whether it’s coworkers, email alerts, or marketing emails from your favorite brands that tempt you into “just quickly checking” a sale on their site. It’s never-ending.

In the end, it comes down to discipline. You are the captain of your own destiny! When I’m in charge of my time and my day, that also means I’m not late. While sometimes I would really rather sit and talk to a person about something, I have to decide what is more important.

It’s how I manage all of my coaching calls; often, one will end, and I have another one right behind it. If I just let myself talk with my clients forever, I would be late to every coaching call, which is like saying to the next client that they aren’t as important as the last. Running three or five minutes late may not seem like a huge deal, but if you do it all day long, your entire schedule will be thrown off, and you’ll end up rushing, rushing, rushing.

Next time interruptions threaten to derail your day, just stop yourself and think, “Can this wait?” You may be doing something exciting when it’s time to go to a meeting or get on a call, and it may be tempting to run late. Alternately, you may be doing something mind-numbing when a coworker walks in and wants to talk about an exciting new project (or grab lunch).

Exercise the discipline to say, “Give me 30 minutes—I need to finish what I’m working on.” Remember, you are the only one who can truly dictate how you spend your time.

Until next time—go sell some stuff!


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