The Key to Manage Interruptions Like a Pro! Plus 3 Specific Ideas, 12 Strategies & More

Woman in office tearing hair out!

In this article I share the key for dealing with ALL interruptions, 3 helpful ideas for anyone to manage their interruptions better and 12 specific strategies to manage interruptions in the moment!

How Focused are You?

These days we're all struggling with MORE interruptions!

As coaches, many of us already work from home. But since COVID, both ourselves and our clients may find our partners or children being around more as remote work is now commonplace.

Could you do with more focused time to work on your business? Perhaps you have a client that keeps being interrupted at work or when working on their coaching goals?

Do Interruptions Get in the Way of Achieving Your Tasks and Goals?Manage Interruptions Coaching Exercise COVER

How often do you get knocked out of a state of flow? You're super-focused, you're making fantastic progress  and suddenly, you're out. You're interrupted. You pick up the phone to answer a call, you're tempted to check your messages by a "ping" on your phone, your friend/partner is bored and wants to talk to you, your colleague has an "urgent" (for them) request. The list goes on.

Interruptions take us away from whatever we're working on. When we need a break this can be a good thing, but at their worst interruptions cost us valuable time, our sense of "flow" or a wonderful creative thought. Sometimes we forget something important—or might even lose a client or deal!

So, this article is for both you and your clients!

Inspired by and based on our popular Interruptions Blaster Workbook, I guarantee you will find something helpful in this article—even if it's just one new valuable focusing strategy!

Check out our Interruptions Blaster Workbook here:

The KEY to Managing ALL Interruptions:

When it comes to dealing with interruptions there is a never-ending list of possible responses.

But the KEY with ALL interruptions is:

STOP! PAUSE before you do—or say—anything!

  • STOP, take a deep breath and evaluate the situation.
  • Then, ask yourself: Is this interruption more important than what I'm currently doing?

What you choose to do next depends on many things—including WHO the interrupter is, whether it's URGENT or not, whether the interrupter is a repeat offender, whether it benefits YOU or not, whether you're in a state of flow etc.

TIP: Try asking, "If I say "Yes" to this interruption, what am I saying "No" to?" You're essentially asking yourself "What are the consequences, to me, of this interruption?"
TIP: If you find you're welcoming interruptions AND not getting things done, you may need to have a deeper review around your motivation.

Here are 3 Helpful Ideas to Deal with Interruptions

Idea 1) Get to know the source of your interruptions

Do you understand the source of your interruptions, your interruption habits? Because when you do, you can respond effectively in future, instead of simply reacting on auto-pilot.

Keep an interruptions log for a 1-2 weeks, and make note of:

  • WHAT the Interruption is (name & briefly describe it)
  • WHO IS the Interrupter? (remember it could be you!)
  • DAY & TIME
  • TIME SPENT on Interruption
  • WHO BENEFITED from the Interruption? (this can be very interesting to see!)
  • How IMPORTANT is the Interruption? (score out of 10)
  • Was it an URGENT interruption?

As you write out each interruption you could also briefly ask yourself what could I do differently next time? And jot down any ideas that spring to mind.

Then at the end of a week or two, review your log looking for themes, common patterns and interrupters! Now you have the information you need to come up with a plan...

The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work. W. Edwards Deming

Idea 2) Have pre-prepared strategies for dealing with your interruptions

Here are 12 Powerful Strategies for Dealing with Interruptions in the Moment

  1. Simply say "No" to the interrupter's request.
  2. Delegate the interruption. This could be delegating back to a family or team member or to someone you know would really enjoy - or even benefit from the experience of - dealing with the request.
  3. Give it back to the interrupter. "I know you're more than capable of handling this on your own"
  4. Reschedule the interruption or request for a time that suits for you. Try "I’m just in the middle of something/a tight deadline. Can I get back to you tomorrow?"
  5. Ask the interrupter to schedule a meeting with you to discuss it.
  6. Ask your interrupter, "Is this urgent?"
  7. Share what you're doing and ask if the interrupter's request is more important than what you're working on. This is a good strategy if it's your boss who is regularly doing the interrupting.
  8. Ask the interrupter for 5 minutes to make notes/wrap-up so you don't lose where you are.
  9. Offer the interrupter a set period of your time to work on the interruption, after which they must schedule another time with you.
  10. Ask the interrupter to summarise the issue or request in an email - including what they want you to do about it (you may even find they will go away and deal with the issue themselves once you do this!)
  11. Buy yourself some time and ask them to come back in 30 minutes/an hour.
  12. Self-Interruptions If the interrupter is you, you can say "No, I'm not doing that now" out loud to yourself. Then agree with yourself that you will attend to your self-interruption later eg. I'll look at that message at lunchtime, I'll browse YouTube this evening, when I'm not working.

Important thought: Remember that kindness and respect are essential—whether you're dealing with yourself or someone else. It can help to think of it like this: Say "Yes" to the person, but "No" to the task.

Idea 3) If you're working on something specific, try to prevent the interruption in the first place

How to Prevent the interruption (this is great for set periods of time where you really need to focus)

  • Go somewhere you won't be, or are less likely to, interrupted.
  • Close a door between you and the outside world if you can.
  • Putting on headphones and listening to non-distracting music can put you in a super-focused zone, and also is an unconscious signal to others that you are working—creating a barrier to their interruption.
  • Put your answer machine on and/or switch the phone ringer off.
  • Close distractions like social networking sites, email programs and email 'pingers'.
  • Turn your personal cellphone off.


Interruptions can be frustrating or they can be stimulating—giving you a welcome break.

To handle interruptions more effectively you need to stop reacting and instead take a deep breath, giving yourself a few short moments to evaluate how you are doing, and then make the best decision for you.

Love this? Get our Interruptions Blaster Workbook here:

Which is also found in our Awesome Time Management Toolkit:

If you liked this article on How to Manage Interruptions, you may also like:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools for coaches, plus resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Woman in office feeling frustrated by Creativa Images via Shutterstock

Image of Businesswoman holding up hand for interruption by Peter Ruter via Shutterstock

Image of Woman working with headphones in office by via Shutterstock


    • mturcott

      Thank you, Ray! We're so glad you enjoyed these ideas to manage interruptions. Warmly, Mary


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