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“I don’t have any interruptions, “ said a leader at recent leaders workshop.

That is a gifted person or a delusional thought leader. Who would have ever imagined Shangri La existed in the world of leading teams but here it was loud and clear.

The data about interruptions in the workplace is also loud and clear. According to Basex research a study conducted in 2009, the average time spent per day by employees being interrupted and trying to refocus is 2.1 hours. Interruptions in the workplace are estimated to cost businesses in the U.S. over half a trillion dollars each year! *

These are the top interruptions sales leaders face over the course of a week.

  • An irate client on the phone needing assistance and call you vs. your service team;
  • A third party person coming to you to request an unscheduled meeting
  • A client calling needing a copy of or some kind of information;
  • A prospect calling to cancel (or reschedule) an appointment;
  • Your Boss or higher needing some information in order to complete a scheduled task or assignment he or she is working on.

Interruptions are just a part of every leaders day. … Except for one-person in the world … the “perfect leader” I recently met. Whether they take the form of an impromptu meeting, a last minute request, someone personally demands, something unscheduled from you, emails, texts or conversations with a “got a minute “, take back the scheduled use of your planned time throughout the day, regardless of how intentional we are around scheduling.

While the majority of these distractions that inadvertently capture key time from you can be eliminated ,many cannot and there’s good news.

Unless you have the leaders life where there are “no interruptions” you have to deal with them and the good news is you can. There are ways to manage them effectively.

Here are my top three ways to manage interruptions:

  1. Be honest and open about your time. If someone asks you to do something, keep in mind to them they think it’s the single most important task they are trying to get done at the time. Be respectful in your reply. Let them know you are working on something that demands your immediate attention. Share with them that you want to make sure they get the time and attention to there issue. Clarify that this is something that needs to be done right now and cannot wait…. Many times these requests can be put off or someone else can handle them. Some can’t and that’s ok. If you can eliminate some of them you do two things, get some time back you would normally use and maintain the trust you have with people you work with through your response.
  2. Look at your schedule for these requests and schedule time when you are free… my boss typically try’s to schedule time between calls if its an immediate need or just tells us he cant right now and if its not urgent to schedule time in his calendar.

You can also look at your calendar when you are planning and see what you can do in the planning stages to minimize interruptions. Handling issues with forecasting or sales orders can be minimized through training and education of your team on the topics. You can also make some white space in your calendar to have built in time to handle these impromptu requests. A mentor of mine when working on planning said to be 45 minutes is the new 60. He mentioned add white space in your day to handle interruptions, track them and work on the ones you can eliminate or minimize through planning and prevention schemes.

  1. You go find a job like my delusional participant at the workshop and if you find that job, please let us all know … we’d like an easy leader role too.

You can identify, manage and handle the interruptions that impact your time during the day. It takes practice, pause, clarifying what it is and deciding the best way to handle it going forward.

TIP: Keep an interruptions log that includes time , topic and who this will better help you plan how to prevent or minimize many of those interruptions.

* Study Source: Fast Company, “The hidden cost of interruptions in the workplace “