7 ways to stop interruptions from derailing your workday


Handle coworker questions and nonemergency interruptions with panache.

We're all busy, and bouncing from task to task is perfectly natural. But what happens when your fast actions and smooth transitions are jarred by unexpected interruptions? If it takes you a few minutes to get your mind back on task after each break, you may lose an hour or more of productive patient care, medical reasoning, and more in the course of a long day.

Nip interruptions in the bud, not by making them disappear—you can't—but working with and around them with these seven tips from veterinary consulting firm Lacher, McDonald and Co.:

1. Turn off your phone and ignore your e-mail. Do you need to respond to a phone call or text in the middle of something else? Occasionally yes, usually no. Use your voice-mail and then "bunch" your calls later, returning them all at once. The same goes for e-mail. The Web's not going anywhere; it'll be there when you arrange time to look at it.

2. Finish what you're doing. It will take one more minute to finish your task, or five more minutes if you stop in the middle and address a question. In almost all cases, the interrupting team member can wait, and you can treat the interruption as your next task. We don't need to remind you that a pleasant demeanor and tact are important when you need to temporarily hold off a question: "Just one more minute, Suzie, and then I promise to get to your question."

3. Write your day. People who make plans get more done, whether it's on a computer screen, a paper to-do list, or a scribbled note with your day's important priorities. Keep the paper with you or review it regularly on screen to check off what you've finished (ahhhh, enjoy the feeling) and to see what else needs to be done. Once you've got the day's goals, prioritize them and delegate what you can.

4. Receive reports on an as-needed basis.Don't waste time hunting for information. Arrange times and days to receive information from your team on finances, cases, or staffing. Stagger reports if you'll be getting a load of information in the morning or at the end of the day.

5. Eliminate long reports. A page can be absorbed, 10 pages needs some study, and 100 pages requires a sanity check.

6. Limit meetings. Invite only the affected department, so others can avoid listening to irrelevant information. And stick to meaningful discussion. If you're into hashing out minutiae at staff meetings, it's time to break your micromanaging habit.

7. Make time for people. All work and no play makes us dull guys and gals. The practice owners and managers who build the strongest teams make time to build relationships and show caring for coworkers. Part of being effective is knowing when you need to take a breather and check in and commiserate (no gossiping!) with your crew.

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