Every book written, seminar conducted or tape recording on time management, has commented on the problem of interruptions. This is one of the most time-wasting areas, yet it can be the most rewarding. Every time I run a time management course, I divide the delegates into groups and ask them to list the barriers to time management. Interruptions always come within the top five answers.

Interruptions are a fact of life, and you cannot live or work without them. They have been here from the very beginning of time and will be to the end. No matter how careful you are about controlling interruptions in your life, there are times when you will fail. Wherever you hide you can still be interrupted, even if there are no human beings around. There were times when I was writing this book, the children were at school, my wife was away, and I was home alone. Then suddenly, I must stop and run to the toilet!

One interruption from an unexpected visitor could take a few hours or more out of your day. Let us assume that on average you are unjustifiably interrupted for sixty minutes every day, for one year. At the end of that year, you would have lost over fifteen days to interruptions. Can you afford to lose fifteen days each year in inconvenient interruptions? If your answer is no, then you must develop a strategy to deal with interruptions.

There are internal interruptions such as pain, acute stress, sickness, complacency, procrastination and many more. Some of which we have no control over and as such we must accept them. There are also external interruptions which fall into one of the following three areas:

Justified Interruptions
Unjustified Interruptions
Untimely Interruptions

Justified Interruptions

This type of interruption can be far more important than the task you are working on at the time. It can bring many good benefits. Imagine that you are sitting down meditating on your money problems for the last two hours. You are trying to come up with an idea that would free you from your situation. Suddenly, in bursts your older brother and interrupts your thought. What type of interruption is this? We cannot say for certain because your brother has not given a reason for this interruption. Let us hear what he has to say. "Samantha," shouts the older brother, "have I got news for you, we have just won £6,000,000 on the lottery." Now what type of interruption is this. Yes, a justified interruption.

In most cases you cannot identify what kind of interruption you will be faced with, or how to deal with it, until you know the reason for the interruption. A unique way of discovering what type of interruption it is, is to ask the person directly, "How can I help you?"

Unjustified Interruptions

One of the most frustrating experiences has got to be when you are working on your A1 priority and in full flight, gliding along smoothly with your thoughts working like they were created to. You feel powerful, excited and in control, then in bursts your younger brother, a friend or an employee to say, "Sorry to interrupt you, but did you see that match last night...?" Don't you just want to explode? There are a multitude of unjustified interruptions which are usually justified to the other person but not to you. They are a nuisance and a waste of your precious time.

"Sorry to interrupt you, but did you see that match
last night, what did you think?"

Untimely Interruptions

In this area the interruption is justified but the only problem is that the interruption came at the wrong time. If the interruption is untimely, make an appointment in order that it will receive your full attention.

When you are interrupted, your first task is to identify which of the three categories the interruption falls into. Is it justified, unjustified or untimely? Armed with the right information, you are now able to make the right decision.

Justified Interruption - deal with it immediately.
Unjustified Interruption - eliminate it immediately.
Untimely Interruption - set appointment immediately.

One of the most effective ways to control interruption is to set daily tasks that are in line with your values and visions. Put them in order of priority and begin with your most pressing task - your A1. While you are working on your A1 task, let everyone know that you are not to be interrupted. If necessary, put up a big sign on your door.

Find a quiet place, use the library, work from home, or get someone to screen your calls.

Because interruptions are a way of life, you must be wise in your planning and make allowances for them. If a report is to take three hours to write give yourself four hours. If your journey is to take one hour, give yourself two hours.

Do not be found guilty of interrupting others unjustifiably. For the seed that you sow, you will reap. Others may be looking for ways to prevent you from interrupting them.

Be aware of the environment in which you work or live, it could be a major cause of interruptions. I worked in an open plan office with eight of the most loving employees in the world. I was distracted by everyone's telephone calls, conversations, and other general office duties. The interruptions in this office were magnified by at least eight times. Most open plan offices are designed to save money and improve communication. While money is being saved in some areas, they may be lost in interruptions.

Make a complete list of the people, situations or things that interrupt you throughout the course of a week. Once you have found out, take immediate action. It is extremely difficult to defeat your enemies if you do not know who or what they are. Unjustified interruption is one of your worst enemies.

At the end of each day, stop and take time to review all the interruptions that you experienced. How did you deal with them?

  1. How many times were you interrupted today?
  2. How much time did you lose?
  3. Did you ask the right questions?
  4. Did you listen effectively to identify what kind of interruption it was?
  5. How did you feel when you were interrupted?
  6. Did you deal with the interruptions effectively?
  7. Did you deal with it immediately?

Errol A Williams


About The Author

Errol A Williams

I am an International Management Trainer with over 36 years’ experience. I have trained thousands of directors, managers, leaders, supervisors, and unemployed people. My passion is to coach one million students to unleash their unlimited potential through personal growth. I was co-founder and Executive Chairman for one of Europe’s largest multi-million pound community complexes, launched by HRH the Prince of Wales in 1988. For over 25 years I have visited, counselled, and ran training courses for UK prisoners. Currently I am a Senior Pastor and Regional Overseer who sits on the National Executive Board for the Church of God of Prophecy UK Trust. I have taught Systematic Theology for over ten years. I am married and have six children and six grandchildren. I am the author of “Pursuing Excellence”, “The Temptation Trap”, “Sowing For A Blessing”, “TIPS For Dealing With Difficult Conversations” and “Building A Dream”. During the 2010 general election I stood as a Parliamentary Candidate. I am a professional photographer, graphics designer, virtual services provider, and web developer. My hobbies include chess, squash, backgammon, and domino. (My Profile)

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