We’ve all found ourselves in the frustrating situation where work needs to get done, but interruptions make such completion impossible. In short, how can we get colleagues to stop wasting our time?
Perhaps it sounds a bit harsh — “colleagues wasting our time.” But, if we ignore the choice of words for a brief second, we can truthfully admit: that is exactly what’s happening right? Inside Indiana Business highlighted this exact topic recently by sharing Robby Slaughter’s article: Three Ways to Get Co-Workers to Stop Wasting Your time. According to Slaughter, the problem with co-worker interruption is twofold:
First, there are a million different ways people can waste your time. And secondly, pushing back seems rude and is sure to have long-term effects on your relationships at work.
This couldn’t be more true. After all, how many times have you dealt with interruptions (behind a gritting smile) despite the knowledge that such situations are completely and utterly unnecessary in nature. Slaughter highlights interruptions that occur weekly and perhaps daily in many offices:
- Unnecessary meetings.
- Never-ending water-cooler conversations.
- Pointless Reply-all emails.
These interruptions may seem harmless or even short-lived in nature, but when you stop to review the time with which they suck from personal productivity in the office, the tune suddenly changes. Because, let us not forget that a short fifteen-minute meeting isn’t just a quarter of an hour ordeal. Add in the minutes lost before and after the meeting just getting to and from the conference room, the minutes of “small talk” that often take place, not to mention the set-backs taken from interrupting personal workflow, and suddenly the short interruption becomes a plethora of wasted time on your behalf.
All of this can be infuriating; especially when the delays are due to a meeting or conversation not even pertaining to you whatsoever. But, what about the work that’s been completed and squandered? In Slaughter’s article, he mentions the frustration that arises in this regard as well:
Worse still is work that ends up being wasted. It’s the report your boss requested and then never read; it’s the scenario that someone thought the customer needed but turned out to be a miscommunication. It’s driving across town for a meeting that no one told you was canceled. When we’ve done something we thought was valuable—but later find out that it wasn’t—we may be facing rage or despair. Wasted time is bad, but wasted effort and time is worse.
Turning A New Leaf: Combating Interruption
Being proactive in our efforts toward reducing co-worker interruption is the best way we can manage our time effectively. It’s also the strongest guarantee we have in regaining the time we so desperately need and want to be respected. Yet, to some, taking action may be a daunting task. The question becomes: where do we even start? How do we get co-workers to stop wasting the precious few moments we have to get work done? Slaughter’s resolve:
The key revelation is to engage them in the world in which you live.
So what exactly does this mean? Below are some of Slaughter’s tips for reclaiming your time.
Explain what’s on your plate. When approached by others in the office to work on an unexpected project, help with problem-solving, or join in a meeting, speak up. Tell them what you’re working on and ask them whether the interruption is valid enough to take time away from the project currently at hand. This puts into perspective the true scope of your work and what’s at stake.
If a colleague is empowered to help you decide where to focus, you are not an untapped resource of free effort.
Remember that non-work conversation isn’t always meaningless fluff. Personal connection between co-workers is important. Not only does it create a better, more cohesive environment, but it breeds trust and confidence among the staff. Yet, it’s important to remember that there is a time and place to have these kinds of conversations. When a co-worker begins to interrupt you in the midst of working, don’t be afraid to redirect the conversation to a more appropriate and convenient time and place.
. . . the best thing to do is to get people to that spot. Bring them to the break room, walk back to their office, or ask them to schedule a lunch
Buy-in for level of effort required. When asked to work on an unexpected project that will interrupt current expectations on your behalf, be direct in your communications about the inevitable effects it will have on your work.
Put in writing in an email how much time it’s going to take and when you’re going to finish it, and provide regular updates whether you’re on schedule or not. That way, people who need you to devote your time are accountability for how you spent it. The effort is measured and understood, and can be better allocated next time.
To learn more about decreasing interruption in the workplace, consider reaching out to the experts at AccelaWork. We’re here to help you regain control of your workflow and increase your productivity and satisfaction in the office!