Did you just interrupt me? And now you want me to pay attention to you? Why would I do that ask James Burchill.

marketingmoneymojoBBy James Burchill

November 24th, 2016



Interruptions cost more than the time taken … they impact your efficiency and your productivity. Some studies suggest that a single interruption (email ding, phone call, social media status ping, co-worker walking into your office) costs you between 15 and 30 minutes of productivity.

Here’s why: the actual interruption takes you “out of the work flow” you were in and once the interruption has ended, you require time to get back to that level of performance before the interruption. As indicated, this can be as much as 30 minutes. Imagine if you were interrupted every half and hour … you’d barely get any work done.

Oh wait, that’s why most open plan offices are (IMHO) such poor productivity hubs. When I worked for a company I always stipulated an office with an opaque or solid door (so you can’t see people waving at you to see if you’re “free”) that I could close. I trained my staff that certain times I was open to interruptions but when my door was closed … you’d better be running to tell me the building was on fire or that you cut off a limb and needed 911! Protect your time … you can’t manufacture any more and those people that are most productive in a day, are usually the ones that do.

Checking Your Email
Remember email is NOT a TO DO list. Also, email is someone else’s agenda – NOT YOURS. Finally, batch your email checking and responding to scheduled times each day. Sometimes I quickly check the SUBJECT LINE and FROM field for “client fires” and “expected deliverables” first thing in the morning but my proper review/reply is at noon and finally once more at 4pm. It’s been the single biggest productivity booster I’ve ever implemented (second only to finding my most productive hours) and now I’m dogmatic about it.

Unsolicited Phone-Calls
I never take an unsolicited call from a number I don’t recognize, ever. People can leave messages and I will choose to call back if I am interested. Also, I prefer email over phone because I read 5X faster than I can talk! Also, it encourages people say what they mean … I got tired of voicemails like this: “Hi James, it’s [name or often “Me”] … call me when you have a moment.” Seriously? How the heck am I supposed to prioritize that message?

Guess what … I don’t call back when I get messages like that.

If you want to leave me a message then do us both a favour and state WHO it is that calling, say WHAT you want and say WHEN you need it. Also for extra points, tell me the URGENCY/IMPORTANCE factor as you perceive it. For example, “Hey James, it’s John Smith calling about the web project. The client needs an update by Friday at 5pm. Can you please advise status by end of day tomorrow?

If you can do that – you begin to get more productive.

burchill-jamesJames Burchill is the founder of Social Fusion Network – an organization that meets regularly in Burlington to allow networking and relationship building.  He also writes and trains people about how to make technology work for them.

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2 comments to Did you just interrupt me? And now you want me to pay attention to you? Why would I do that ask James Burchill.

  • Multitasking doesn’t work. It’s not some vague idea for the purposes of this piece. Here are a few links to support the fact that you cannot do two things at once … it simply looks like it.

    > https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rudy-vidal/multitasking-doesnt-work_b_9721508.html
    > https://www.forbes.com/sites/douglasmerrill/2012/08/17/why-multitasking-doesnt-work/#1b6253b87b2f
    > https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20707868,00.html

    LOL, and I’m not obsessed with open work space inefficiency (noise and interruptions reduce output,) I merely know what works for me and many others.

    Also, and I’d like to point out the obvious … I write to share an opinion, to share facts and to spark a conversation.

    Mission accomplished *wink*

    Thanks for playing along, it’s much appreciated. Good for readership too.

  • Mike Devine

    Sorry James but everyone its different and you’re generalizing here to make a point which obviously affects you greatly. You may not realize it but many people are quite capable of multitasking WITHOUT losing focus. Vaguely quoting “some studies” doesn’t even come close to allaying the subjective nature of your piece. The duality of the good and bad of open concept workplaces seems lost on you because of your obsession with what bothers you. Some employees hide behind closed doors and their productivity lags. Others flourish in a group dynamic and their productivity increases with regular, random, contact with coworkers.

    Your problem with interruptions is a common one, but by no means a universal one. Closed doors for those who need/like it – open spaces for the others. No need to force either side into a work environment they cannot thrive in!