How Do You Handle Unexpected Interruptions?

Accessibility does not mean you are available 24/7/365. We all have limits on the degree in which we can be reached by co-workers, and you should feel comfortable enforcing and expecting others to honor these limits.

Can you be so successful modeling accessible behavior that too many colleagues want a moment of your time and you find that you have no time for yourself? Is this an example of “too much of a good thing”? We all know that sunlight is a good thing, yet too much sunlight can cause skin cancer. We know that the human body needs sugar to survive, and yet too much sugar may cause diabetes. If you are wildly successful at being accessible, you may find your calendar and productivity under attack.

Your goal is to make sure you are being accessible to serve the needs of others, not to become a servant to accessibility. Individuals successful at being accessible also demonstrate some of the following behaviors:

– For advance requests to see you, schedule times that work within your calendar.

– For unexpected knocks on your office doors, ask if the question/topic is urgent or not. If not urgent, say something like the following:

“I’m interested in speaking with you, yet I have a report that I am working on that is due in about an hour. Can we schedule a time for us to chat? Let’s quickly look at our calendars and schedule something.”

– For topics that are urgent for which you do not have time to address, ensure that your unexpected visitor knows that you have only a moment of time. Focus your comments on next steps and possibly identifying another individual who can act on your behalf.

“I’m interested in speaking with you, yet I have a report that I am working on that is due in about an hour. Can you give me a one-minute recap of the situation so I can at least help you identify your next step?”

– For times when you need to focus on work without interruption, find an available conference room, a vacant office, or the empty employee cafeteria. Seek other ways to get your work done before you stay in your office and close your door.

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