Dealing with Interruptions: Bookmarking

Interruptions can kill your workday, because each interruption diverts your focus. Picking up your work and getting back up to speed afterwards is slow and difficult. It’s like when you’re on a road trip, making good time, and then you stop for gas. Filling the tank may only take a few minutes, but if you’re like the rest of us, you don’t just fill up your tank when you stop. You make a phone call, use the restroom, grab a snack, etc. Actually getting back on the road can take considerably longer than the fill-up.

You can reduce the impact of interruptions by using a technique called bookmarking. When reading a book, you slip a piece of paper between the pages to mark your place. When working, you can use a slip of paper to mentally mark your place so you can easily return to it.

Here’s how it works. You’re focused, working hard, and someone interrupts you:

1. Acknowledge the person and ask for a moment to record what you were working on.

2. Grab a slip of paper (a Post-it note works) and record three things:

a) What you were doing.

b) What you were thinking about.

c) The very next thing you were going to do.

3. If you will need your desk space, gather up any papers you were working with and attach your bookmark to the top.

When you return to your work, simply glance over your bookmark, which will refresh your memory and recover your focus. Our clients rave about this technique when we teach it to them:

“I honored my appointments by practicing bookmarking before switching gears. That simple action is an incredible time saver and works wonders!”

Bookmarking is effective for any time you want to switch tasks, not just for interruptions. Need to rush off to an appointment? Bookmark. Leaving work halfway through a step? Bookmark. Passing off a project to someone else? Bookmark.

Try it yourself and post your experience in the comments below.

Kevin Crenshaw
 

Kevin, our approachable CEO, is the creator of Total Relaxed Organization and author of NEVERBOSS: Great Leadership by Letting Go. He's a rapid turnaround advisor and Hands-Off Leadership™ coach for selected companies and leaders. He loves people, leadership, coaching, speaking, tackling tough problems, and physics, but rarely all at once.