Are you being Interrupted?

Just like these birds do you find yourself being constantly interrupted? This has got to be one of the biggest reasons I am not as productive as I want to be.

Another Distraction

 According to a study done by Microsoft workers in a typical office get interrupted on average 4 times each hour and what was really interesting was that 40% of the time, the person did not resume the task they were working on before the interruption. What is even more disturbing is the more complex the task, the less likely the person was to resume working on it after an interruption. 

I am sure there are a few ways to help this situation including setting some time aside to do more complex tasks where interruptions are discouraged. (Perhaps behind closed doors first thing in the morning.) But what about addressing the interruptions themselves?  

 I would like to introduce a simple tool called a ‘point sheet’.  The premise is simple: whenever you have a question or get stuck on something, you’re tempted to quickly ask your supervisor or your colleagues for help.  This solves your immediate need but it greatly interrupts the productivity of others.

 The solution is any time you have a question you write it down on a pre-printed paper called a “point sheet” and once you have accumulated enough questions you can bring them all to your supervisor or colleague. (Once you are comfortable with this I encourage you to share it with those that interrupt you as I am a firm believer in not asking someone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.)

Now here is the best thing about this tool. Often by the time you are ready to walk through 7-8 issues with your supervisor you realize that you have already figured out 3 or 4 of them on your own.  With a bit of patience it’s surprising just how many times you find answers to your own issues if you just try.

 A word of caution though it’s still important to set aside some time for going through those issues that you didn’t solve on your own. Feel free to make up your own version of a point sheet or for those that are interested you can obtain a pdf version here.

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc at


About Janet, doing it better.

I grew up and still reside in Northern Alberta. While I have numerous interests I am passionate about the Peace River region, its innovation, its people, and the creative spirit that envelopes us all.

Posted on July 25, 2011, in Business Productivity, interruptions, productivity, productivity tools. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I heard an example of this where a several person engineering department was bottlenecking a company’s throughput. A study revealed that they were fielding frequent interruptions from shop people with questions, sales reps with questions about project progress, etc. The more complicated the work, the more time required to ‘recover’ from each interruption. They solved the problem and eliminated the bottleneck by designating a couple of engineers on a rotating basis as the buffers for answering quesitons, leaving the remainder of the office uninterrupted and free to maximize their productivity. Another potential solution to this is the use of “visual controls”, where answers to frequently asked questions like schedules and such can be posted for all to see, eliminating a lot of interruptions.

  1. Pingback: What is Occupying Your Time? « Do it Better

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