Persons from Porlock

When you are concentrating, interruptions break the flow. Think of Samuel Taylor Coleridge who woke one morning with the poem Kubla Khan complete in his mind. Part way through writing it out a Person from Porlock knocked on the door and broke his concentration. As a result, the work was never finished, and it remains the most famous half-a-poem in the English language.

The problem has become worse over recent years, with open plan offices, direct dialling,  email, and the disappearance of the secretary-as-gatekeeper.

Most of us grudgingly accept interruptions by clients, not always with good grace, but are irritated by our colleagues. We forget that it may be part of our job to be available to colleagues, for instance providing guidance to more junior staff.

Here are some ways of creating blocks of time to enable you to get things done.

Signal that you are engaged. If you cannot shut the office door find another way. At Asda’s open plan head office, that used involve wearing a red baseball cap.

Divert you phone to someone who can take a message (and interrupt if really necessary) or failing that to voicemail. Return calls as soon as you are free. Do not check your emails during the block of time you are creating.

Manage expectations and set boundaries. If you are at your most productive in the morning, let your staff know that you are available after lunch. And if someone is collecting for Doris’s leaving present, send them away until your “availability period”. Client expectations can also be managed: tell them the best time to get hold of you, or tell them who else in the team can give them an update. Better still, get in first with an update, which leaves you with a happy client as well as allowing you to choose your own time.

Get this right, and you will be more in control, more productive and less stressed. The sense of overwhelm will be reduced, and there should be a knock on effect of happier clients and staff. And who knows, you may get to spend more quality time with the children.

As ever, if we can help you work through these issues, get in touch.



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