Interruptions kill our productivity; they take away our focus and wreak havoc on our motivation. You may think that interruptions are an inevitable part of work-life that you can’t do anything about, especially if it’s an interruption from a client, but that’s just not true. Here is how to manage and minimise constant interruptions from clients.
Interruptions are costly
While that ‘quick question’ from a client might not seem like such a big deal at the time, these few minutes can cause major problems that can slip under your radar. For example, an interruption will: 1) Break your focus – it takes, on average, 23 minutes and 15 seconds for your mind to fully return to focusing on the task that you were working on. 2) Cause you to prioritise low-value tasks – a client that interrupts you instantly becomes your immediate priority, whether they should or not. This interferes with your own goals and priorities which actually align with what’s truly important. 3) Decrease your productivity – interruptions negatively impact our focus and prevent us from completing high-value tasks. It’s pretty much impossible to get through a workday without at least a few interruptions but for every lawyer, accountant, and consultant, managing and minimising these interruptions should be a priority.
8 strategies to manage and minimise constant interruptions from clients
Keep an interrupters log
You can only minimise constant interruptions from clients when you identify what interruptions you are getting in the first place. Keep a log of what interruptions you experience in a day and over the course of a week, noting down what the interruption was, when it occurred and how much time it took to address.
Analyse the interruptions
Once you have your log of interruptions, analyse the information. Which interruptions are valid and which are not? The valid interruptions need to be scheduled into your day but with the non-urgent interruptions, these are the ones that need to be minimised.
Create a routine
Having specific times for specific tasks helps you to focus and be less prone to interruptions overall. It also helps you to prioritise tasks and manage expectations with clients.
Allow response gaps
Managing your interruptions often just comes down to you setting better expectations with your clients. For example, stop responding to emails or phone calls as soon as you get them. Give yourself an hour or two to condition your clients to be patient with your response and to give yourself more breathing room so that you can finish your task first before replying.
Schedule heads-down time
In your daily routine, the time where you’re completing certain tasks should be scheduled in as “heads-down” time. This means turn off your phone, minimise your email window and concentrate on the task at hand. You’ll find that you’re far more productive without any interruptions.
Schedule communication time
When you create your daily routine, never schedule the whole day for valuable work tasks. Have blocks of time for communication where you’ll be available to take calls from your clients or answer emails. By designating periods of the day for communication, you’ll soon find that your clients know when to contact you and when you most likely won’t be available.
Control your communication by narrowing your channels
One of the best ways to manage constant interruptions from clients is to eliminate some of your communication channels. For example, encouraging clients to email you will funnel most of your inbound messages into one channel so it’s easier for you to manage when you schedule in your communication time.
Saying ‘no’ to a client request if you are busy, won’t result in you losing that client. It will, however, make a massive difference for you. If it’s not an important task, explain to your client that you are working on a tight deadline on an important project right now so you won’t be able to help them. Alternatively, you can let your client know when in your schedule you would be available.
Plan for interruptions and manage them to take control of your time
Constant interruptions from clients consistently rob you of time and energy which negatively impacts your productivity. With these strategies above, you may not be able to eliminate interruptions from your day completely, but you can start to gain more control over them so that you can manage your time better and focus on the tasks that matter.