Interruptions – performance inhibitors?

Years ago I kept a sheet by my desk called “Surprise Meetings.” Our was environment so reactive (not responsive) that there were all kinds of surprise discussions that cropped up each day.

The meetings haven’t died down, but the “surprise meetings” are not typical.

Yet, like every bad habit there is always another habit that must fill the void and that can either be good or bad.

This week I was sitting in the cube farm preparing for the day. It was to be a day full of meetings and so I needed every minute to prepare, analyze, and coordinate. I turned my desk lamp on, got the notebook prepared and set up the computer.

…and then the DMV opened. Seriously, I do feel like I should give people a number.

After a few minutes I decided to create a spot in my notebook labeled “Interruptions.”

Here’s the result:

Interruptions Cheat Sheet…and a tip on a great mobile app!

Yep! Do the math. Nine (9) interruptions in one hour!

Do I like the people?  YES

Did they have legitimate questions? YES

Did I get any work done? NO

I was even interrupted while on a conference call in the 9:00 – 9:30 a.m. time period. I didn’t include that interruption because I kept leading the call.

So….what does all of this mean?

  • Productivity – you won’t get any in this type of environment.
  • Learning – this will perhaps be a little higher than productivity because there is a bit of knowledge sharing going on during the interruptions.
  • Create alternative work environments – extroverts may love it, but introverts will get anxiety. Perhaps telework is the best answer or maybe providing small private conference rooms with a sign up sheet.
  • Respecting boundaries – instilling regard for personal boundaries in shared spaces. Just because I can see you, doesn’t mean you are available to talk.
  • Use IM or email or even the phone – yes, people make fun of the offices where everyone is emailing people across the room. However, that isn’t all bad. One interruption can cause an entire chain of interruptions in the room and then…all is lost. Ok, not all, but for some it is. Sometimes it is best to send an email if it is less disruptive and if someone is “in the zone” and you’d be pulling them out of it.

Regardless, this is something to remember when expecting workers to learn and perform in environments that aren’t ideal.

Something to think about and prepare around.

…oh, and do check out the app I wrote a note about under my “Interruptions” area on the page. Just found out about it and it comes highly recommended by a member of our mobile team.

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