The Effect of Interruptions on Performance

Posted on by in Mike's Morning Missives

I was one of the first industry sales trainers who warned you of the dangers of multitasking. I took some heat for this sacrilegious stance, as many agents seemed to insist on juggling too many activities while screwing up a great number of them.

Most travel practitioners know that interruptions take a chunk of productive time out of each day, but many don’t realize how much time they actually consume. Sure, you might only spend five minutes on the phone, or talking to a co-worker, but then it takes you another minute to get back to your desk, get comfortable, get yourself concentrating and back on track. Even if it’s not a lot of extra time, all those little interruptions can add up to a big loss of productivity throughout the day.

Do you have a policy on answering phones and emails? I am treading on thin ice here as I have been reminding you that “speed wins,” and if you don’t respond to your prospect’s inquiry your competitor might. If you are not required to pick up the phone right away or respond to emails immediately, you might want to let the call go to voice mail and answer your emails in batches at a designated time of day.

My friend Jill Konrath, and author of More Sales: Less Time, ran an experiment and found that very few incoming inquiries needed immediate responses. By not responding right away, you’ll save that little bit of time it took to check your email and scan your box, or the time it took to refocus after a call.

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In addition to refocusing, you’ll likely add another task to your already full to-do list and you’ll be thinking about that instead of the task at hand. While it may seem like it’s just a little extra time here and there, all those little bits of time can add up to a huge loss.

My brother refers to this as the “2-minute trap.” Most daily chores can be accomplished rather quickly, but when you add them all up, you have to carve out a large chunk of time to get everything done.

If you have the option, save phone calls and emails until certain parts of the day. Set aside chunks of time to answer all your voicemails and emails at once. This will keep your brain focused on what you’re doing. Plus if you’re calling into your voicemail less, or using form emails you can quickly copy and paste, you’ll save even more time by doing these things two or three times instead of twenty.

Once you get the phone and email interruptions under control, you can then start on “stop by” interruptions. Unlike phone and email, you can’t just ignore a co-worker, neighbor or family member who drops over to chat, and hope they will go away.  This may make them harder to deal with, but it’s still possible to cut down on the distraction.


Mike MarchevMike presents a business-building webinar on the third Thursday of every month sponsored by AmaWaterways. To receive a complimentary invitation send Mike an email with the phrase “AmaWaterways” in the Subject Box. You will also receive a link to the recorded version.

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