How to Handle Interruptions and Keep Your Day Planned

Dec 11, 2020

Time is money.

I think that famous quote is wrong: “TIME is LIFE”.

It’s your main asset and, the sooner you assume that the better your life will be.

You can regain money, but you cannot recover the time you wasted.

The point here is you’re not the only one who manages your time. Others do as well. Here’s the big mistake.

Just like your life is yours (nobody doubts that), your time HAS TO BE yours.

That’s why you have to protect it, preserve it, and defend it.

Remember: it’s your main asset.

The standard process of a productivity geek

If you’re a productivity geek like me, before beginning your day, everything’s planned.

Maybe you did it the day before, or you did it as your first task of the day.

  • You know all the things you want to accomplish today.
  • You have time blocks to dedicate to each task.
  • You have left blank spaces to manage contingencies.
  • You breathe.
  • You’re engaged, and you feel the flow’s coming.
  • Then…

…a f* phone call interrupts this mystical moment.

What’s the thing that usually happens?

99% of the time, it’s a stupid (without quotation marks) phone call that’s useless or could perfectly be solved using the email as the right (and only) channel.

The concept of time and managing it

We’re not taught at school to respect others’ time. I do believe it should be taught.

The moment you know how to use your time and respect others is when productivity appears, and everybody performs at their best.

It’s a reality and, when I’ve been working in small teams, with everybody knowing this easy concept:

  • You get the best out of time.
  • Time becomes an ally.
  • Everybody easily achieves its peak level, talking about performance and results.

It’s amazing how many outcomes can be produced working like that in just a day. Imagine in a week, a month, or a year!

But, let’s be honest. This is not the most common scenario, and the bigger your company is, the greater the probability of being interrupted.

What to do in real-life scenarios

You have to do pedagogy.

You have to be a teacher because people usually don’t think about these “stupid” things.

Depending on the person you’re teaching, that’s how you have to communicate the message, but no matter if it’s your boss, a coworker, your wife, your husband, your parents, or your kids, the message show be crystal clear to everyone.

Adapt it as you consider not to be fired or get divorced, but you have to teach “the hierarchy of interruptions”.

The hierarchy of interruptions

Lesson 1

Whenever someone needs something of you, they should ask themselves this simple question:

When do I need this?

Now, let’s move on to lesson 2.

Lesson 2

Depending on the answer to that question is how they will decide the channel they will choose to contact you:

  • Email.
  • Instant messaging.
  • Phone call.
  • Physical invasion of your workspace.

You have to commit to one thing. You will always reply to an email within 4-6 hours.

As you can see, if you move from top to bottom inside the hierarchy of interruptions, how the interruption hurts you increases.

As I said before, depending on the answer to the lesson’s 1 question, people will decide the channel to interrupt you:

  • I can wait for 4-6 hours. Then, I use the email.
  • I need a reply before 4-6 hours. Then, I use instant messaging.
  • I need a reply just now. Then, I use a phone call.
  • I need it even before. Then I invade your workspace because I have no other option, and I cannot talk about this issue using a phone call.

Why this procedure is so effective?

When people ask themselves the initial question, they realize they don’t need you as quickly as they thought. It’s just a matter of habit (as always).

Of course, for people is easier speaking than writing, but you have to keep on teaching them until they notice this system is better for everyone (they too).

Everybody’s feeling the sensation of not being productive. They feel bad, they would like to change.

The moment they realize:

  • This system saves them time…
  • They’re really bothering you…
  • Your replies are better using the correct channel…

… they will start practicing it.

This procedure is so effective because it forces people to give things the importance they have.

By default, everybody thinks everything is critical.

This system brings them the opportunity to think about how important or urgent (don’t mix these concepts because it’s something essential) things are.

That’s how:

  • A company’s information flow begins to work correctly and optimally.
  • Everybody is doing the things they should be doing.
  • Everybody performs at their best because they’re concentrated on the thing they should be.
  • Communication between coworkers improves because nobody’s invaded.
  • A productivity and high-performance atmosphere is born.


Education and respect always pay off.

Think about how to communicate the hierarchy of interruptions without offending anyone.

Tell them it’s for their sake (and yours). For everyone’s sake.

Working this way, you’ll become more productive, being able to cover their needs sooner and better.

I hope nobody who reads this article gets fired. With that alone, I’m happy.

Photo at the top courtesy of Gary Bendig on Unsplash.

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