If you are a glass-half-full person, interruption is an excellent thing. It means you are functioning and active and people need you. Interruption is necessary for growth.
If you are a glass-half-empty person, interruption is the antithesis to productivity and can mean wasted time, annoyance, and headaches.
There are a couple of ways to literally eliminate interruption from your workday. Unfortunately, the obvious ones are a bit ridiculous if you are an operating business.
For example, you can remove the phones, the e-mail, social media, your staff, your customers. You’ll get a much quieter day allowing you to get on with things, but… can you pick the new issues?
In our business, we welcome interruption. But, how do you realistically operate, scale up and keep everyone happy along the journey while managing your own projects, juggling priorities and dealing with interruption?
It seems impossible, but we might have found a way!
For around 12 months, we have had in place what we call “Interruption Hour” at our business. It’s compulsory and, exactly like the name, it is a scheduled one hour per working day. Interruption Hour welcomes questions, requests, decision-making, new ideas, teamwork and instant collaboration.
During interruption hour, we enable our team with the tools and permissions to interrupt us and have decisions made – big or small – and raise any issues they like. We sometimes even play music or gather around a central space.
While you’re busy calculating the cost of Interruption Hour, here is some of the value we have drawn from it:
The team have embedded it themselves. There is such a respect for Interruption Hour that, during our morning scrum, you often hear the words “… I’ll have an answer for you by Interruption Hour”, or “… I’ll come to see you during Interruption Hour”. They save issue for Interruption Hour because they’re guaranteed a result.
Some issues disappear. Problems are occasionally resolved by themselves or, by waiting for the mid-afternoon Interruption Hour, the team have come up with one or more solution options.
Better decisions are made. Those who need to be involved or consulted are actually available. Rarely is anything else scheduled during Interruption Hour.
The rest of the day is available for genuine scheduling. It can be time-blocked without concern that you might leave the team struggling.
We’re going to keep it.
Our team are variously on different working arrangements, but our main workspace is an open office. We are fast-paced, action-packed and likely to be dealing with plenty of options and decisions all at once.
At times, it can be hard to focus on multiple priorities while trying to handle interruptions as well. In this environment, decision-making is sometimes necessary but cannot be ideal. Interruption Hour was implemented as a measure to temper the distractions.
As COO, it is my job to be interrupted, so I expect to be less effective during traditional business hours. Interruption Hour has potentially saved me 5 or 6 interruption events dispersed throughout each day. They are now harnessed into one neat time box. Of course there are occasional urgent and necessary exceptions and of course I allow and manage these.
Interruption Hour is worth it, because it allows me and others to plan out the rest of the day for value work and project-focussed activity.
Interruption Hour awaits, so I’m prepared each day for a condensed set of mini interruptions and decisions to be made. I’m focused, and the business gets more value from my day.
Interruption Hour is creating better problem-solvers and leaders in our team.
Would you try this in your business?