Handling Interruptions Whilst Being Nice

Interruptions Can Wreck a Consultant’s Time Management

So, you are concentrating on a vital and complex guideline. It’s full of figures and drug calculations. In the middle of a complex sum, the door knocks. You answer… and someone says “can I just have a quick word?” 45 minutes later, with a whole new problem to solve too, you are sat there going “now where was I?”

So what’s the answer?

I am guessing you are wrestling with the conundrum that you want to be available but you need to concentrate and they seem mutually incompatible. Right? Well, not quite so actually. There are two techniques that we advocate on our Time Management Course for Doctors that are designed to deal with this conundrum.

Solution 1 – Protected Chunks

The best way to stop people from interrupting is by telling them exactly when they can interrupt, when they can’t and what the exceptions are. It goes like this “From 10am to 11am I am finalising a complex guideline and so don’t want to be disturbed, unless it is a clinical emergency or a safety concern. However, at 11am, I am going to be available for any queries that people have or problems that need addressing. Once people know that their issues will get attention, they are usually very happy to leave you in peace.

Solution 2 – Truncating the Disturbance

This is a communication technique designed to deal with the 45-minute ‘quick’ word trap that everybody falls into. When the head pops round the door you say “sure… I can give you 3 minutes now or, if it is going to take longer than that, let’s schedule it for…” The impact of this is that you are now in control of the interruption length whilst ‘always’ being a lovely, helpful, available consultant!

If that made sense and you want more tips, besides signing up to be notified of them, we cover techniques like this on our Time Management Course for Consultants:

Time Management Course for Consultants

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