Updated: Jan 14, 2020
As previously discussed, distractions are non work-related attention disturbances that reduce our performance level at work. On the other hand, interruptions are actually work-related distractions that can also affect our performance as well if not managed.
We manage interruptions by thinking about how interruptions caused by others affect us, but also, we should not forget how we can affect others. We may not want to be interrupted too often, but we may not be aware of how we may interrupt others. Consider others first.
How should we manage interruptions?
STEP 1: Be aware
Being mindful of the effect that your interruptions can cause upon others is a great start. An unplanned interruption can take away focus that took a long time to get. So, before you interrupt others, evaluate if you can resolve your issue with your skill set. Only interrupt someone if figuring out an answer will take more than 3 times longer than resolving the issue yourself. STEP 2: Know the urgency
Avoid interrupting others unless it is urgent. Some interruptions can wait for later, but some can't. Production related questions are time sensitive and must be resolved immediately. Preventing yourself from being interrupted may interfere with a delivery which has serious consequences. So, don't take not being interrupted so seriously or you would cause a costly delay. Also, if the matter became urgent because you didn't plan ahead, be ready for your supervisor or coworker to call you out on lack of planning.
STEP 3: Schedule Interruptions
For non-urgent inquiries, set a time with your coworker to discuss about your questions. Having an appointed time minimizes the effects of an interruption. When sending a calendar invite include the issues to discuss so that everyone can read the issues ahead of time. Knowing the issues ahead of time facilitates communication and eliminates small talk or unnecessary explanations. Be organized, don't create multiple appointments in one day. Plan ahead, and discuss all issues at the same time.
If we are mindful of how time is best managed, we will be handle our own time better and be sensitive to others. Don't cause a delay because you don't want to be interrupted, or because you have spent hours trying to find an answer that your supervisor could have resolved in 2 minutes. Sadly, there is not a one size fits all answer for every issue, therefore, going to an extreme may cost valuable to you and others. Therefore, give it your best shot and be wise.