Are you tired of constant interruptions at work? Do you find yourself constantly bombarded with chats and unplanned “quick calls” from bosses, colleagues, or subordinates? If phrases like “Do you have 5 minutes for a quick chat?” or “Can I call you for a second?” sound all too familiar, then you’re not alone. The majority of people automatically respond, dropping what they’re doing to immediately engage in these conversations. But what if there’s a better way to handle these daily interruptions? Keep reading to discover effective strategies for regaining control of your workday and boosting your productivity.
Upon reflection and analysis, it becomes evident that the majority of these “quick calls” could have been efficiently handled through chats. It’s also perfectly acceptable to respond to chat inquiries a little bit later. Consider the broader impact: when you add up these unexpected interruptions, they consume a significant portion of your 8-hour workday—approximately 45 to 90 minutes, at the very least. Consequently, you find yourself working beyond regular business hours to compensate for the tasks that were originally meant to be completed during the day. This situation forces you to play catch-up with your priorities and to-dos.
It’s a common occurrence for people to face such situations regularly with a substantial impact on their productivity. Just like one of my mentees, who recently experienced a similar challenge. Her manager would approach her through MS Teams on a daily basis, requesting a “quick” call that ended up taking 15-30 minutes of her time multiple times throughout the day. This practice was also followed by other superiors, leaving her with the need to stay late after work to complete her tasks.
If you’re eager to improve your situation, I have great news for you. Keep reading, as I have an immediate solution, “magic bullets” that can help you overcome these interruptions effectively.
Master your calendar
Take control of your calendar and use it strategically. Define essential meetings, allocate time for your own offline work (avoid fully booking your free time for offline work), and add regular reminders for repetitive tasks if needed. Color-code your calendar to easily identify different types of activities, such as meetings, client interactions, reminders, offline work, or short breaks. This visual organization will help you stay focused. When someone requests a quick call, be assertive and inform them that your calendar is up to date, encouraging them to schedule the call through the calendar system.
If the interaction ends up in a scheduled meeting anyway, I highly recommend checking this related article https://www.anastazjamichalak.com/its-not-what-you-preach-its-what-you-tolerate-10-laws-of-effective-meeting-culture/, where I speak about effective and productive meetings which bring results and structure.
Assess the urgency
Avoid automatically treating every request as a top priority. Assess the urgency of the situation and act accordingly. If it genuinely requires immediate attention, address it promptly. However, if it can wait, assertively communicate that you will address it later, once you’ve completed your current priorities.
Clearly communicate your priorities and be assertive, even when dealing with your boss or individuals of higher rank. For instance, if your boss asks you to urgently prepare certain data while you are currently working on another priority, directly inquire about their expectations. Ask if they want you to drop the current task, which was originally scheduled for completion by today, and switch to the new request. Explain that this shift would mean the current task might be delayed until tomorrow. Seek confirmation if this approach aligns with their expectations.
Preach what you teach
Practice what you preach and treat others’ time with the same respect you expect for your own. Show empathy and understanding for their busy schedules and commitments. Approach others with the mindset of valuing their time and being considerate of their priorities.
Be assertive in communicating your availability and boundaries. When someone approaches you with a request, politely inform them that you are currently occupied and suggest a specific timeframe when you can get back to them, whether it’s in a few minutes or a few hours. Seek their confirmation if the delay is acceptable. This approach establishes clear communication and mutual understanding. Avoid simply ignoring messages, as it can be perceived as rude and unprofessional. Acknowledge the message and assure them that you will respond at a later time. This way, both parties are aware of the situation and can manage their expectations accordingly.
Practice makes perfect, and it’s exciting to know that my mentee has already witnessed immediate results by putting some of these strategies into action. Now, it’s your turn to seize the opportunity and experience the positive changes for yourself. I’m genuinely eager to hear about your journey and the impact these strategies have had on your work life. Have they helped you become more productive and better manage your time? I invite you to share your experiences and insights by leaving a comment below. Your valuable feedback will not only inspire others but also contribute to our collective knowledge.