Most people want to be available every time our boss, coworkers, friends or family need something. It is great to be helpful and dependable, but it is also important to set limits on the times you are available so that you are able to be productive. It is important to be available in a true emergency, but these should only occur a couple of times per year, not on a daily basis.
Emergencies Versus Interruptions
Telling people to only call if they really need you is a good idea, but people have different views on what is a need. Some will only call if your mother died or your child was involved in an accident, while others believe that every 50 percent off sale is an emergency. Give people examples of things you feel are true emergencies so they will know when it is okay to interrupt your work and when they should wait to call until you are done working. It is also a good idea to let people know the hours you will not be working.
It is a good idea to check your voicemail and text messages every hour or so when your phone is turned off so that you don’t miss any true emergency calls. It is a bad idea to be completely unreachable, but you have to find a balance between being unreachable and being so accessible that you are no longer able to be productive during your workday.
Why You Should Tell People to Wait
Most people have trouble getting back to work after they have been interrupted, especially if the project they are working on requires intense concentration. You may think that you are handling interruptions well, but most of the time you will be able to tell which parts of the project were interrupted and which you were able to complete without interruptions. You will probably not remember exactly where you left off each time you were interrupted and may end up leaving a small part of the project unfinished because you thought it had already been done.
Most people are not able to multitask very well. It is better to focus on the task you are trying to complete before moving on to the next project. Giving the project your full attention will be evident in the final product. Most people get very stressed when they are trying to complete multiple tasks at the same time and may end up not being able to complete any of the tasks well. Even if someone comes in while you are working and asks for help with an urgent project, it is best to finish what you are doing before helping them.
People usually learn very quickly who will be willing to help them. Many people will ask for help because they don’t want to complete a task. If you are always willing to stop what you are doing and help your coworkers with their projects they will depend on you for help with every project. This cycle leads to more interruptions and lost productivity from you. It is much better to offer your ideas to your coworker quickly and tell them to work on the project alone until you are finished with your tasks. The coworker will probably have their project completed by the time you are able to offer help and they will be more likely to complete their next project without help.
Working at Home
When you have children and are working from home it is very difficult not to stop in the middle of a project every time they want something. Most parents have to devise a system of filling their child’s wants and needs while still being productive. Some parents tell their child to wait for a few minutes and offer help as soon as they can. Others tell the children to wait until the next time they are scheduled to take a break. Getting up in the middle of a project to help your child may seem like a good idea because their need is being met right away, but it breaks your concentration and makes you less productive. It also doesn’t teach your child any lessons about patients or respecting your work time.
Make Time to Be Available
It is equally important to make time to be available to the people around you. Scheduling an hour into your workday to help coworkers with their projects is a good idea because it makes you look like a team player. It also helps them avoid interrupting your work because they know that you will be available later in the day to offer guidance or support.
Making time to be available to friends and family is also important. Scheduling lunch dates or nights out with your friends is a good idea to fit them into your life without interrupting your work time. Making plans with friends shows them that they are important to you and you want to be there for them as much as possible. Having a routine that includes time for your family each day is an excellent idea because you will be able to focus entirely on your family during this time and should not be distracted by thoughts about work.