Dealing with interruptions (phone, e-mail) when working
Thread poster: Anne Koth

Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:45
German to English
Sep 17, 2007

One of the biggest things which slows me down at work is e-mails, telephone calls etc. interrupting me. I sometimes seem to spend hours answering e-mails (about work) or phone calls from customers, leaving me with no time to carry out the actual work the e-mails and calls are all about.

As soon as I sit down and really get into a job, so that the words come into my head effortlessly, I get an "urgent" e-mail. When I get back to work, it takes ages to build back up to the same speed, and then the phone rings. After this has happened a few times, I can't concentrate at all.

I've set my e-mail programme to send me e-mails less often, but then people phone up, wondering why you haven't responded, even though they sent a message half an hour ago.

What good tactics have other people developed to combat this?


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Evija Rimšāne  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 11:45
Member
English to Latvian
Maybe... Sep 17, 2007

one solution could be setting an Autoresponse message informing your clients that you are busy right now or by certain hour, and will be able to reply them afterwards. If they come with something urgent you are very sorry but cannot help them right now. And also, you will be be very thankful if they don't call you during this period either. Something like that.

I understand you completely because I very often have experienced very similar situations, but the only difference is that they rarely call me by phone.:)


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PAS  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:45
English to Polish
+ ...
Brutal and simple solution Sep 17, 2007

When I have a _really_ tight deadline, I simply don't answer calls and don't open Outlook.

If it's a really urgent job (phone or e-mail), I can't accept it anyway beacuse I am working on something else now.

I have tried to make it clear to people I deal with that I am not a slave to my e-mails and my mobile, do not carry a blackberry and check it every 27 seconds to see if something came in.

If I cannot make contact, it's probably because I am busy doing something else - work or play. Not because I am mean to my client.

Pawel Skalinski

p.s. I ALWAYS call back and excuse myself for not being available.

[Edited at 2007-09-17 14:15]


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:45
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Answerphone Sep 17, 2007

PAS wrote:

When I have a _really_ tight deadline, I simply don't answer calls and don't open Outlook.

If it's a really urgent job (phone or e-mail), I can't accept it anyway beacuse I am working on something else now.

I have tried to make it clear to people I deal with that I am not a slave to my e-mails and my mobile, do not carry a blackberry and check it every 27 seconds to see if something came in.

If I cannot make contact, it's probably because I am busy doing something else - work or play. Not because I am mean to my client.

Pawel Skalinski


I do the same. At really busy times, switch on/activate your answerphone / messaging service. You can hear that a call is coming in but need not answer it. At a moment convenient to YOU, you can play back the messages, answer any that are genuinely urgent and ignore the double-glazing salesmen, etc. As for emails, don't have your email turned on constantly. Check it at times that suit you and answer accordingly.
This is not necessary all the time, but helps a great deal when you're truly busy and don't want to be interrupted.
Best of luck,
Jenny.


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Rebecca Lowery  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:45
French to English
Know exactly what you mean Sep 17, 2007

Especially as I operate as a freelance translator and as an agency. Whe I have a really tight deadline (for a document that I'm translating) I also turn off outlook and just answer the phone as it could be an agency client. However I do have caller display - and if I see that it is my friends or family calling me I let the answer phone pick it up. To be honest, I find that my friends and my family are the worst at distracting me. Because I work from home, they seem to think they can call me up and chat for hours during my working day. One friend of mine used to be unemployed and he often used to "pop" in when he was at a loose end - but then I got tough!!

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:45
Dutch to English
+ ...
Other point of view Sep 17, 2007

It bothers me more not to answer business-related e-mails/calls as soon as they come in - i.e. I concentrate better if they are dealt with immediately rather than knowing there are things to be answered, but that's me.

Bottom line is when it comes to job offers, if you snooze, you lose.

It probably stems from the days in full-time legal practice, when the phone never stopped (even though I had two secretaries), but I've somehow just developed the knack over time to switch back and forth.

Can't really say exactly how that has happened, other than it helps to see it as a "necessary evil", rather than a burden - helps if you don't focus too much on the interruption, as such, but rather on the positive side of it - another job offer, etc.

If I pick up the phone and it's personal or telemarketing, I just politely say I've got deadlines to meet and cut the call short.



[Edited at 2007-09-17 14:24]


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Pro-Trans
France
Local time: 10:45
English to French
+ ...
Only answer to interesting emails Sep 17, 2007

I have been experiencing the same problem as you. Now, I try to filter emails and I only answer straight away to emails that I find interesting (clients, projects,...). The other ones will wait a few hours before getting an answer (lunch time or end of day).

I never give my phone number unless the client enquires about it (it is quite rare)... This way, I am never disturbed by phone calls in the middle of the night or outside my working hours. The worst about phone calls is that you never know how long they will be when you answer your mobile... Moreover, I find it easier to negotiate rates via email than via the phone!
I haven't found any advantage in giving my phone number, I only work via email and it doesn't prevent me from finding jobs!


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 04:45
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Sounds like you were in my office today! Sep 17, 2007

What gets me the most are those automated messages coming from marketing agencies, like I just got now. The type that switch on when you say "Hello", which I recognise immediately because I always answer "Nancy Bogar", and get a little silence at the other end. I hate rushing to the phone, jumping over obstacles (we're renovating just now) just to hear an automated message saying I have won an all expenses-paid trip to Mexico... for only $xxx per person. Aaargh!

Today alone I received 3 phone calls from salespersons trying to get me to buy insurance and cell phone services. I am unfailingly polite: "Let's not waste your time and mine; I'm already fully covered, thank you, good-bye" - yet I still had to hang up on the guy today after saying this, because he restarted his sales spiel, as though I hadn't said a word.

Family members and friends, I know, believe that "you can work whenever you want!" - sure, but I have *real* clients with *real* deadlines, I just don't take a bus to work, that's the only difference.

Anyway, back to work, we have a conference in Montreal in less than a month! I do have to deal with salesmen for that, though...

Good luck everyone!

Nancy

[Edited at 2007-09-17 19:36]


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 04:45
English to French
+ ...
It's YOUR phone and YOUR internet connection Sep 17, 2007

If you pay to have a phone and a connection, I think it is normal that it serves YOUR interests above all.

I check my e-mail very often even when I work, but unless it is urgent or has to do directly with what I am working on, I don't take care of e-mail until I'm done working. As for the phone, I simply don't answer it when I deem it counter-productive.

These things are there to help, and not hinder, my work. Therefore, I make sure they are used at MY convenience, unless I'm done working. My mom knows this and doesn't give me bad vibes for not answering the phone earlier - but she still tries...


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:45
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the ideas Sep 19, 2007

Like the Lawyer/Linguist, if I don't look at my e-mails, instead of being distracted by interruptions, I'm distracted by wondering whether anyone might have sent me one

I usually get fewer "urgent" messages in the morning, so I think I might try using an automatic response until, say, 11 am, telling people to phone only if it really can't wait. That gives me a good three hours of power typing, if I don't distract myself in other ways by looking on ProZ or something!

Those salespeople can be really rude, as well, can't they? "Oh well, if you really want to stay uninsured and don't care about what happens to your children ..." To avoid going back to work and breaking my keyboard as I let my feelings out, I now quickly say "I'm not interested, thank you" in a friendly voice before they can even get into their pitch, and put the phone down quickly.


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