Interruptions at work can come in many forms: phone notifications, taps on the shoulder, a grumbling stomach asking for a snack, a spontaneous request from a boss, or just a colleague looking to tell you about their crazy night.
These interruptions may seem harmless, but they can be costly. As a study from the University of California, Irvine found, once someone’s workflow or concentration is interrupted, it takes them an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task. Twenty-three minutes! That could be the length of a whole meeting. Or the time it takes to respond to several emails. Or an episode of your favorite sitcom.
That’s why — for project managers who run meetings — it’s crucial to have a plan to address these disruptions and keep people focused on the matter at hand.
So, as we move along with our 10-part guide on How to Plan a Meeting People Actually Want to Attend, let’s dive into Step #6: Anticipate disruptors at every turn.
Use these best practices to handle interruptions and save those precious 23 minutes (or more):
- Address disruptions head-on. Instead of getting frustrated, tell the disruptor you hear their question, concern, or comment, and you’d be happy to discuss it later or at the end of the meeting if there’s still time. Then get back to your meeting agenda.
- Use a timer. There’s no shame in keeping a time limit. It shows that you respect people’s schedules and have clear goals for your meeting. A timer and hard stop might also help prevent disruptors from chiming in with tangential comments.
- Set up your Zoom properly. Implement Zoom’s own best practices and tips for preventing disruptions in your virtual events, like disabling annotations and muting microphones when necessary.
As executive coach Harrison Monarth wrote for Harvard Business Review: “Acknowledge your interrupter. Tell them you hear them, but make sure you finish your point. Once you’re done, you can address the interrupter and ask them to share their thoughts. Say, ‘I know Mike had some thoughts earlier. Would you like to share, Mike?’”
And, once again, here’s some added insight from meeting aficionado Charlie, the Proggio office dog: “Definitely keep your ears perked and your paws ready. There’s nothing worse than an unwelcome disrupti — did somebody just open a bag of chips?!?”
To recap, here’s our quick, actionable tip for Step #6: Don’t let disruptors get you down. Prepare to field inevitable interruptions by setting necessary boundaries for your Zoom or in-person meeting and respectfully addressing disruptions when they do arise.
Ready to streamline your project management meetings? Book a demo with Proggio.
Need to catch up with the first half of our guide? Check out the first 5 steps here:
- Decide if you really need the meeting.
- Plot your talking points and goals.
- Invite the right people to attend.
- Prepare your data and real-time reports.
- Have a plan for staying on topic.
And keep an eye out for the rest soon!