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Interruptions or Opportunities?

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/20/2006 | Business and Finance
Another phone call, email or someone just popping by cant a person get any real work done around here? Sound familiar? But wait just a minute! What if those so-called annoying interruptions are actually opportunities knocking? What if those interruptions are actually a part of our work that we cant afford to neglect?

Changing our perspective about interruptions can reduce the annoyance factor and any resulting pressure. It may also help us put the interruptions to a good purpose. If we take the time to answer that call or visit briefly with a colleague we may be building relationship bridges that will serve us in the future. Besides, courtesy and friendliness are as essential at work as in any other part of life.

That is not to say that we need to spend inordinate amounts of time in conversation, but a few minutes is well spent. After a few minutes, it is respectable to say something like Id love to talk more about this with you? When are you available? If you really cant afford to be interrupted, close your office door its much more difficult to stop by. You could let the reception or your voice mail take messages until you are more at liberty to respond. Even if you decide that an open-door policy is more your style, you might consider placing your computer in such a way so your chair is partially turned away from the door and direct eye contact can be avoided.

When it comes to emails, instead of answering them as they come in, its better to set aside some time each day to respond. That way, youre in control and can focus on your work projects. Messages from list-servers can overwhelm and take a lot of time to go through to find those gems. Organize your list-server and put emails into a separate file you can check periodically.

Why take the time for interruptions? In short, the more connections we have the more innovative we become. We learn from others, their opinions and advice and we can even draw on their professional network of contacts if we have really listened and noted who they are. Knowledge flows through organizations not only in relation to the organizational structure but through channels of influence and trusted relationships that are often external to that formal structure. You will never know what helpful information you missed if you dont take the time to network in these ways.

Make your interruptions work to your advantage! Sometimes they can actually help you stay connected, get new ideas and become more productive and innovative. Now thats a new perspective on interruptions!