Interruptions are an everyday occurrence for club managers and are integral to the role of looking after a busy and interactive club environment. Whilst they can’t be avoided, and in many instances need to be embraced, restricting interruptions can be key to managing your time effectively and efficiently.
When club managers reflect on a typical workday, they note the many interruptions that occur, including phone calls, emails, text messages, unplanned conversations and passing requests. The definition of an interruption is anything that grabs your attention and takes you away from the task at hand.
There are only so many hours in a day and they sometimes seem to fly by at a rapid rate. So, it only takes a few small interruptions to impact on your ability to achieve the goals you have set. The reason for this is that once you have dealt with an interruption it can take up to 25 minutes to regain your full concentration and focus. Management guru, Peter Drucker maintains that ninety (90) minutes of uninterrupted time equals four hours of interrupted time. So minimising or restricting interruptions is highly beneficial. Here are some ways to discourage your productivity-killing interruptions: -
The first step to restricting and controlling interruptions is to know what they are. Some interruptions are necessary and some can even be scheduled. The technique is to determine what distractions are occurring and whether they are valid, urgent or merely nuisance value. One way to do this is to keep an “Interruptions Log” and, when your attention is diverted, record: -
who was involved
when it happened
the type of interruption
your analysis of it
By undertaking an analysis of interruptions for a week or two, will help you understand what is distracting you and eating into your valuable time. An important part of this is determining which interruptions are valid and which ones are not.
Valid interruptions need to be dealt with. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be dealt with immediately. Knowing that certain interruptions and distractions are unavoidable, means you can schedule time in your day to give them the time and focus they deserve. And, by catering for interruptions, you will set more realistic time frames for the important tasks you set to achieve each day.
Using the analysis from your “Interruptions Log”, you can approximate how much time is taken up by valid interruptions. Then you can schedule this as “floating contingency time”. It needs to be “floating” or flexible because some interruptions need to be dealt with then and there, while others can be noted and addressed at a more appropriate time for you during the day.
The benefit of arming yourself with a flexible structure is that it puts you in control. It provides a decision point for you to decide whether to drop everything and handle the interruption (for example, an emergency) or mentally move the interruption to the scheduled time. You’ll also find you are less stressed at the end of the workday.
Regular meetings are another way to schedule interruptions. When team members are confident that they have access to you at defined and pre-scribed times they are a lot less likely to run to you every time they have a perceived problem. Rather, they will “save up” the non-urgent interruptions and bring them to you at the meeting. Encourage them to compile a list of things that they need to discuss, so you can go through all the points at the meeting. And, it is also worthwhile you doing the same thing so you can raise points that you want to be addressed.
This may take a bit of coaching for some team members (and yourself) but it is worthwhile for all.
For interruptions that are not valid, it’s critical to block them out and not get involved. Easier said than done! The first step is to ask the question- “is this something I should be involved with at all?”
When a team member interrupts, it's easy to get caught up their "rush". The reason they have interrupted you is that they genuinely believe their request is valid and urgent or they have a flash of inspiration that needs to be shared, immediately. The reality is that the majority of interruptions are not urgent and before “leaping into action” and tackling them, it can be in everyone’s best interest to step back and analyse the situation.
So, take a breath, clear your head and assess the situation before reacting.
If your assessment concludes that the interruption is not a valid one and is not something you should be involved with, let the person know assertively and politely. Remember it is appropriate and acceptable to say "no" to requests or tasks. When you are fully focused on a task; if someone else can look after it (or is better positioned to handle it); if it’s not a high priority; or if it can simply be done later, “no” is the best response.
And, the way to say “no” is important. As well as being sincere and courteous, providing an explanation and possible alternatives demonstrates a considered reaction. “No” becomes – “Sorry I can’t help you right now, I’m in the middle of this project and it has my full attention. If it suits you why don’t we meet back here at 3.30 pm to discuss it? Come along with your ideas and solutions and you will have my undivided attention. Why don’t you discuss it with Bill as well, and if he is available, bring him along?”
When you ask someone to “go away” and come back later, you are using a form of delegation (the Consult level of delegation). You are saying – “before you automatically come to me with a problem, looking for an answer, formulate your own possible solutions and we will consider them together, before proceeding.” Getting your team members to think this way is extremely powerful in restricting interruptions.
Taming the Telephone
One of the primary forms of distraction and interruption is the telephone. Especially these days when they are with us 24/7! Again, a little bit of scheduling and planning can make the phone the useful business tool it is, and not a frustrating, continual distraction. Using voice mail, screening calls or diverting them to someone to field allows you to maintain focus and deal with them at a designated time and with prioritisation.
To avoid being interrupted at all, you can let team members know when you are available and when you are not. Having a system or signal in place that lets people know you are unavailable can alleviate distractions. Whether it is a closed-door or an “I’m busy” sign, it lets team members know to only interrupt if it’s an emergency.
As a manager, you need to be careful with this, as accessibility and being part of the team are key elements in being an effective manager. Don’t overuse it. If the barriers to speaking with you are too high, you can ostracise yourself from the group and limit the all-important lines of communication and collaboration.
When you are available an open-door policy is healthy, but you should limit the number of team members in your office or workspace at one time. In fact, why wait for them?
Being proactive and going to see your team members shows proactivity and gives you some control. For example, if you offer to meet your team member in their office or a meeting room you can excuse yourself when the issue at hand has been discussed – it is much easier to get up and leave than asking someone to leave your office once they are comfortably seated.
When there is no other option than to handle or address an interruption then and there, it is important to set parameters and be efficient and effective with your time. Saying and sticking to “I only have 10 minutes right now”, lets the other person know how they need to utilise the time available.
Standing up, not engaging in small talk and getting to the point all indicate that the urgency of the interruption is noted and has your attention. If a solution cannot be reached within the time frame, and if you have validated it is a genuine issue, set a new time to reconvene or get back to the person. And, make sure you schedule it and do it!
The Club Managers Association of Australia (CMAA) has been supporting and developing club managers to achieve high levels of leadership and management ability for many years. The training and development of knowledgeable and motivated leaders that are capable of achieving greatness on behalf of their clubs is a passion of the CMAA. To this end, they offer the professional certification - the Active Certified Club Managers Award (ACCM).
Individuals who hold the ACCM, have demonstrated that they possess the skills, have the range of knowledge and can model behaviours that drive premium results for their club.
The foundation stone of the ACCM is the Club Managers Leadership and Management program, an online, training course, delivered by elevateB (a specialist training company) and independently endorsed by Australis College (a Registered Training Organisation)
The Club Managers Leadership and Management program has been modelled on the Diploma of Leadership and Management, ensuring it covers a full gambit of management and leadership topics. Importantly, it has been tailored and contextualised for club environments and day to day club management situations. To successfully complete the program, participants are required to demonstrate required knowledge, skills and abilities through application and activity submissions.
For more information on the Club Managers Leadership and Management program, click here.