Last week I shared a few time management techniques.  Without a doubt though, the biggest hindrance to an assistant’s productivity is constant interruptions – “urgent” jobs coming in, technology crashing midway through a crucial piece of work, well-meaning people calling in for a chat, phone calls… I’m sure you can all relate!

Interruptions are unavoidable at work.  They break our concentration and take us away from whatever project we’ve been working on, making that task longer than it needs to be.

The feeling of constantly being interrupted and not managing to achieve anything can impact on motivation and stress levels. Thankfully, there are ways to deal with this without it impeding productivity.  Here are a few top tips….

Limit the phone interruptions

  • Have a look at your surroundings – whereabouts is your mobile phone? I’ll bet it’s not far away! Unless you’re expecting an important call, put it somewhere out of sight.  The temptation to check texts and notifications can sometimes be too great.
  • If it’s a project that requires concentration, can you divert your landline to voicemail or to a colleague for a couple of hours?

Escape your desk

  • For me, writing minutes is a job where I need to get my head down and am easily distracted. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home on these days in peace and quiet – no background noise.  If this option isn’t available to you, can you book out a meeting room or go somewhere quiet away from your desk?

Be assertive with colleagues

  • Where you can, be honest with your colleagues and inform them that you need some quiet time to get something finished. Where you can, close the office door.
  • If someone turns up at your desk with a query, let them know that you’re dealing with something urgent and ask them to drop you an email and you’ll get to it as quickly as you can. Assertiveness is key so you don’t get taken advantage of, but equally don’t appear rude!
  • If they have something urgent, write the request down and ask how quickly they need it. You’ll be able to assess the degree of urgency against what you’re already doing.

Focus your concentration

  • If you’re in a noisy office, you might find it difficult to focus. Open offices are common and some environmental noise is to be expected.  Sometimes we just have to train our minds to block out the noise.  If all else fails, try putting some earphones in!

Keep your to-do list handy

  • I live by my to-do list, so I have all my outstanding jobs to hand (and don’t forget things!). You can also prioritise your tasks for the day.  Download our free list here and print a few copies.

Keep your cool

  • In truth, I often find it difficult to mask my irritation when someone interrupts me! But the more annoyed you get, the harder it is to return to what you were concentrating on.  Don’t sweat the interruptions – they’re impossible to avoid completely.
  • We must have some flexibility and adjust priorities if something genuinely urgent comes in. But I think assistants are brilliant at doing this.

Don’t interrupt!

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you … i.e. if you don’t like to be interrupted, don’t do it to other people!  When you want to interrupt someone, consider first whether it is urgent.  Could you drop them an email with your request and the deadline?  I’m sure they would appreciate this.

Have a great week everyone.