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.

 

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