Finance News & Insights

Cut time-wasting interruptions

Everyone seems to be taking on more responsibility at the office, which sometimes means more interruptions. But all those interruptions add up to a lot of time.

Interruptions take up an estimated 28% of a worker’s day — and cost US businesses roughly $650 billion a year.

Whether it’s an open-door policy or notifications about e-mail, staffers’ days are rife with interruptions. And once they get interrupted it can take a while to get back to what they were doing.

Here are the four most common interruptions, and your staff can cut them out:

  1. An open-door policy not only means they’re available to other staffers, but that they’re available all the time. Letting people pop in unannounced can wreak havoc on concentration and to-do lists. Let staffers know that they need to set up a time to meet, or to drop an e-mail if that’s appropriate. This is especially dangerous territory for managers who want to let the staff know they’re available, but that availability becomes a time waster.
  2. There are too many notifications for everything from e-mail to social networking sites. Notifications cause staffers to drop what they’re doing almost immediately so they can go check on their message. Usually the message isn’t worth the immediate attention and only serves to distract staffers from what they were doing, often leading them astray for 30 minutes or more.
  3. A project is too big so it’s put off until there’s more time available, or it’s too involved so it’s put off as long as possible. Encourage staffers to cut big, complex projects into workable chunks. That way they’ll know there’s a workable goal for that day and won’t panic or try to find a distraction. Projects will be completed with more accuracy because they will be worked on in manageable time periods. This is especially handy when there’s a deadline looming and procrastination threatens.
  4. There’s too many “yes” responses to “Can you do ­­­_____?” While it’s always good for staffers to volunteer to take on more work, taking on more than they can handle is counterproductive. Let them know it’s OK for them to say they can’t take on anymore work. Or they can accept a task with a ‘but’: “Yes, but I won’t be able to have it to you until next week. I have another project I’m working on.”  Staffers won’t feel like they have to do it all right away.
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