1) Shut Up! 2) Communicate.

October 16, 2007

shutupandcommunicate10.png“Hey Bill!”

- What?”

“Are you almost done with the Cooper file?”

- “I’m on the phone”

“I said, are you almost done with the COOPER FILE?!”


Welcome to interruptionville. Interruptionville is how I affectionately refer to an office that recently hired me to help them become more productive. The above conversation is a typical exchange in that office.

The group has worked together for quite some time, and over the years they’ve developed some very unproductive habits. For instance, whenever one of them has a question for another teammate, they immediately pick up the phone to buzz them - or worse - just scream their request down the hall!

On one occasion I even witnessed a team member get interrupted in the middle of interrupting somebody else. It actually was quite comical from my point of view, but it had to stop.

Just because you’re ready to say something doesn’t mean others are ready to listen.

If your workplace has become interruptionville, then your team is likely less productive than it could be. So what can you do?

First, the entire team needs to become aware of just how often they’re interrupting each other (hint: it’s more often than you think!).

Next, everybody has to make a conscious effort to eliminate impulsive interruptions. Impulsive interruptions are outboard communications (i.e. verbal requests, voice mails, emails, or instant messages) that flow from the sender’s “stream of conscious” thought process rather than through a systematic, organized communication process.

Finally, every team member needs to commit to using a communication log. A communication log is a simple, yet powerful way to communicate when used properly. Here’s how it works:

Goal: limit the total number of communication events throughout the day so communication events are more focused and productive.

1) Dedicate a notebook as a target for the information you want to communicate. You should create a section or tab for each person you interact with on a regular basis.

2) Keep your communication log handy! If you place it on a shelf or in a drawer you won’t use it. As you think of questions or information you need to discuss with your teammates, rather than interrupting them, jot it down under their section.

3) Schedule time to communicate. Once per day should be enough. During these scheduled “Communication Events”, use the notebook as your talking points list of things to discus. This ensures that communication happens on purpose when both parties are ready and engaged. It’s also a far more efficient and productive way to communicate. Here’s the bonus, you have a record of communication which simplifies tracking follow up items.

4) Use the communication log during regularly scheduled one-on-ones. Both manager and employee should each have their own communication log notebooks to facilitate more organized, and less impulsive communication.

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