“Life is a series of interruptions interrupted by interruptions” is a quote that we had always attributed to John Lennon, but that may be apocryphal.
Anyone who has ever worked in a law office knows that interruptions are the bane of a lawyer’s existence. We can’t tell you how to get rid of them, but we can offer some suggestions to help you control them and reduce their impact on your work.
To control interruptions, make sure that you and your secretary both take your previously scheduled work sessions as seriously as you would a client interview. If you wouldn’t take a call while in with a client, don’t take the call while in with the client’s file. If you have difficulty saying “no” to interruptions, your staff won’t hesitate to interrupt you. The other side of this coin is that you need to work with your staff to make sure they know what the important matters and deadlines are, when you really don’t want to be disturbed no matter what, and how to handle particular things that you suspect may arise while your are unavailable.
Also, remember that interruptions are a state of mind. They only divert you from what you are doing to the extent that you let them. If you must allow an interruption, before you turn your attention, look at where you are in your work and make a mental or, if necessary, physical note of the next thing you are going to do. Most of the time getting back into the flow of what you were doing takes longer than the actual interruption, and that’s something you have complete control over.
Moreover, here is a time management tip: Take your to-do list, and make appointments with yourself in your calendar to do them. Then tell your staff to treat these ‘appointments’ as if you were in with a client – in other words, interruptible only for very good cause. That way you can work on your most important tasks and not allow the tyranny of the urgent to steal time away from the truly important. This way you start to control the interruptions rather than having them control you – and you don’t end up saying that other well-known quote: “Where did the time go…?”