I recently noticed a colleague of mine has started using a simple technique to deal with interruptions. She is a very busy project manager with lots of calls on her time and many people wanting to ask her questions. It is her role to help people progress their work, but if she doesn’t manage her own time carefully she will get swamped.
Ask the question early
People frequently come up to her and say “have you got a few minutes” or start quizzing her about details of a project. If, after a couple of exchanges, she can’t resolve the issue she invariably comes out with “So, what’s the question?” I have frequently observed that simple question is a very effective way of making people stop and think.
Get to the ‘Why?’
Too many times we know need information from someone but we don’t think through what it is we actually want to know. When she bounces that question back at people they then really stop and focus on what is important to them. Often a request for a half hour meeting can be resolved by a single question that she can answer immediately. This saves hours of wasted time for everyone.
Give it a Try
I’ve seen this technique be both powerful and very effective in dealing with interruptions. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.