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How to Handle Interruptions to Your Schedule
by On April 9, 2008

Tom Weber

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All of us have interruptions coming at us on a constant basis from our kids, from our coworkers, from our spouse, from our customers, from our boss. There are three simple, helpful things you can do when faced with an interruption. Prevent, delay, and deal.

Prevent
Any good general will tell you that before you go into battle you must have a battle plan. Even if you know your day is going to be bombarded with interruptions you must have some sort of a plan or a schedule.

What a schedule will give you is an ability to tell people, without saying it out loud, that you are scheduled to be doing something. Make sure that you post your schedule so people can see it. Make sure everybody knows what you’re going to be doing throughout the day. As an added bonus, there is accountability. At the same time, it tells people, “I’m busy right now. Come back latter.” If they don’t know what you’re up to they may assume that you’re free and think it is okay to interrupt you.

Delay
Another benefit of having a schedule is that it gives you the ability to delay some interruptions. It is a good idea not to schedule every single moment of your day and minute by minute. Hour by hour is a great way to go because then you have blocks of time. So you have blocks, or buckets of time with nothing scheduled, some point in the middle of the day or in the afternoon on your schedule. The buckets of time allow you to delay the interruptions and address it when it fits into your schedule.

When you have an interruption, somebody walks into your office, or they call you on the phone, and they say, “Hey, I need you right now,” you can easily tell them, “You know what; right now I’m in the middle of something. I have an opening at 2:00 today. I can schedule you at that time and that way we can talk about your problem then.” What often happens is people say, “Great, I’ll talk to you then.”

Here’s the best byproduct of doing that. Typically if you tell somebody I’ll help you out by 2:00, and they know it is coming, it calms them down and many times they end up fixing their own problem. Or they find someone else to do it for them. Delaying it is a super simple technique if you truly intend on helping that person at a given time, not just procrastinating it.

I did a program for a company recently and a woman sat up in the audience and looked very frazzled and said, “But we can’t do this. Our customers drive our business. I have to take their call and I have to deal with their problem at that exact moment!” There was another woman in the audience, one of the more experienced customer service people, and she said, “Actually, what I tell them when they call and they’ve got a problem is that I’m in the middle of something else. As soon as I hang up the phone with this other person or as soon I’m done with this project which is very important I will call you back. Or I will call you back by 1:00. Or you will hear back from me by the end of the day. Letting people know that you are going to take care them fixes most of the problems.”

Deal
Now if all those things don’t actually work, and people aren’t able to allow you to delay their problems because it’s that big of a deal, well then we step into the final one and that’s to deal with the problem. Not much we can do sometimes. Sometimes we are forced to have to deal with the situation with it arises.

Handling interruptions to your schedule is easy if you remember to either: Prevent it, Delay it, or Deal with it.

Be Free!

Tom Weber
Instructor
VP of Sales

I would love to hear how these 3 techniques work for you or how you handle interruptions to your schedule. Post a comment below.

  1. loren

    This is a great way to break it down. I have the most trouble with the delay category. I have always been the “go-to person” and worry about making others feel less important by not handling their problems right away. Since working at FPD, I have made great progress on my use of the “please do not disturb” sign and have not offended anyone but my Mom (she already got over it!). I get a lot more done, and as you note, most of the time people have figured out another solution by the time I get back to them. Thanks Tom!

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