AtTask-interruptions-300x228As marketers, we are no strangers to frequent interruptions and work requests. We can be focused on a project and creating a strategic plan one minute, and then our attention is suddenly yanked by team members, a phone call, an email, or perhaps even a text. Regular interruptions and unplanned work requests are simply the nature of our industry.

In fact, you may not recognize just how much of a part of marketing these issues are. Interruptions have become such a big problem that according to a Basex report, knowledge workers spend 28% of their day on unnecessary interruptions and recovery time. Whether they are quick question “pop-ins” by team members, requests for status updates by stakeholders, or emergency work requests, there seems to always be someone demanding a marketer’s time and attention. But constant interruption makes it difficult to keep your train of thought, slows your pace of work, and can ultimately lead to missing deadlines.

What to Do to Manage Interruptions

While other work always comes up and there will most likely be fires to put out, it is important to eliminate interruptions whenever you can. To ensure you have a solid block of uninterrupted time try to:

1. Look for patterns in the interruptions (who, where, and when). Once you identify the typical triggers for interruptions, you can work to manage and minimize the interruptions. An easy solution is to establish two to three short blocks of time throughout the day when you will update or assist other people. You can ask the repeat interrupters to come back during your regularly scheduled time.

2. Set aside dedicated work times. This is a time when interruptions are not allowed. If possible, find a quiet place to work where you won’t be interrupted. If you can’t do this, create a system to alert others that you aren’t to be bothered, such as email auto-responders or putting up a card that says, “In the Zone, Do Not Disturb.”

3. Actively minimize distractions. Do this by turning off email and phone notifications and sending calls directly to voicemail. Then schedule daily blocks of time to reply to email and phone messages, and respect that time like you would a meeting.

4. Prioritize your to-do list. Work on the things that are the most strategically aligned until they are done. When interrupted, train yourself to go right back to what you were working on so you stay as much in the groove as possible.

Everyone is more productive when they follow a standardized process that allows time for both collaboration and real work. Interruptions become less frequent and are left for critical fires instead of every work request.

Work requests, on the other hand, pose a more complex problem. The struggle with managing work requests is that they come at you in a variety of ways, such as emails, hallway conversations, instant messaging, and sticky notes. And, they come from a variety of people—all making it difficult to track. Since you don’t know exactly what work requests are in the pipeline or what other projects your team members may already be committed to, further problems ensue when trying to accurately estimate and allocate resources. This is why, when it comes time to execute, you often find yourself short on resources and struggling to meet your deadlines.

What to Do to Manage Work Requests

By taking the extra time to create and follow consistent processes, you will save time in the long run. You will find that you have better insight into both upcoming work and resource availability if you:

5. Use one method to submit all work requests and stick to it. Only accept new requests if they are submitted through the set process, which should include a creative brief and business case for the campaign or job. That way you have all the information you need to prioritize and assign the work.

6. Use templates to automate or eliminate repetitive tasks. These should include the steps, resources, and time needed for every marketing activity so you don’t miss critical tasks, approvals, or milestones.

7. Consider holidays, time off, and internal work when projecting resource availability. This ensures that you won’t have a scheduling crunch when a major holiday comes around and half the team is taking extra time off.

8. Make saying “no” okay and know when to say it. Not every request is do-able, nor are all of them aligned to strategic objectives. It’s hard to say no to a request, but if you have data and business objectives to back up your stance, you can easily defer the work.

To make sure your processes are consistent and you have the visibility to accurately allocate resources, you must be firm. Whether it’s a dedicated email address such as [email protected] or a single collaborative hub or document, any work request not submitted in the correct manner doesn’t go into the work pipeline—it’s that simple. Stick to your guns on this and you will find work requests can be standardized and managed effectively.

For a marketing manager who is functioning properly – communicating with the team, open to the client, aware of the resources – it simply isn’t possible to completely eliminate interruptions and work requests. However, those interruptions can be mitigated with the above recommendations, and these work requests can be received and delivered. Imagine what could be accomplished if you had 28% of your workday back.