BY SHARON MELNICK “Here’s a three step process for eliminating up to 75% of your current interruptions.” We are interrupted on average four times an hour and waste more than 2 hours a day on distractions. You may believe that since these interruptions originate with another person, they need to be the one to stop it. But you have more control than you think. Here’s a 3 step process for how you can eliminate up to 75% of your current interruptions. Use the acronym A-C-T to figure out one of three possible responses to every interruption: A: Allow or Accept C: Cut it off at the Pass T: Triage Accept or Allow: If you decide an interruption is more important than whatever you are currently doing, Accept or Allow it. Give it your full attention. Resolve the issue. Choose to allow interruptions only if they meet your strict criteria before you get into the situation. For example: ¡ Your manager or client expects real time availability (and you know this because you’ve asked). ¡ There’s a significant risk and an important project needs your input to move forward. ¡ The interrupter is a mutually supportive friend who generally doesn’t waste your time. ¡ There’s a personal or family emergency. Cut it off at the Pass: ¡ Prevention! Make a list of your most frequent sources of interruptions and distractions then problem solve them away. ¡ Schedule buffer times to deal with answering emails, unexpected requests, vet new opportunities, rather than interrupting what you are doing. ¡ Silence email notifications, ringers, etc. to create uninterrupted work time. ¡ Schedule interruptions: have frequent—but brief—check-ins throughout the day; hold “office hours” so people know when to contact you or expect a call back; if your collegues are the source of interruptions, give them clear guidelines on what matters are appropriate to interrupt you about. Teach them how you think about solving problems, let them know you consider them capable of solving problems. ¡ Assemble a FAQ document with comprehensive answers to frequent questions—and reference it on your voicemail and email signature line. Triage: Allow a brief interaction between you and the interrupter to determine how to deal with the interruption. Just like the Emergency Room nurse, pointedly (but pleasantly) asks a few questions that will give you clarity on the situation and enable you to tell the interrupter your plan for when/how you will respond. The right questions can help you craft a mutually satisfying plan—or even help you determine that you don’t need to get involved at all. Make a list of three to five questions that are relevant for your circumstances. Post them in your office so you can easily refer to them in the heat of the moment.