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Trades Business Hack: Managing Interruptions At Work


Click on the video to watch it (Runtime 6 minutes and 53 seconds).

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If you’d rather read the transcript it’s here below.


Hi there!

Are you sick of being interrupted?

Are you sick of being interrupted all day long by the phone calls, and the emails, and people knocking on your door wanting to help you? Does it frustrate you? And does it leave you unable to get lots of work done because you’re always solving other people’s problems for them?

I’m sure that’s true. I’m sure it’s frustrating because all my clients and all the people I talk to as a business coach find this annoying. Lots of my clients struggle with it. You can feel that there’s always somebody who needs you. There’s always a problem to solve usually for somebody else. And you can feel very strongly that if you don’t help them, bad things will happen. There will be undesirable consequences.

Now, I’m Jon from Small Fish Business Coaching and you’re watching a Toolbox Tip. This is a short bite-sized video with one piece of information that you can use to make your business better. And of course from my perspective, it’s meant to give you a bit of an insight into how I coach and the kinds of things I work on with people, and perhaps to tempt you into considering coaching for your business. I hope that works.

I run the Tradies Toolbox Coaching program and I help people grow and scale their trades business. So if you want to grow and scale yours, you’re in the right place. And you might enjoy some of my other videos. It’s hard to grow and scale if you never get anything done because you’re always being interrupted.

One of the big difficulties we have is doing all the new hard stuff that takes us outside our comfort zone when we couldn’t really spend all day every day solving problems and dealing with shit and just keeping the place running.

What are the interruptions you have at work?

I’ve told you there’s a hack here. It is easy and quick. So there’s more than one thing going on with this thing:

  • Your staff wants you to think for them and solve whatever the problem they’ve got in front of them, so they’re calling you.
  • Your customers want an instant response because we do, because we’re selfish and self-centered, and we have a question, and we’d like to have it answered immediately.
  • Your suppliers are a bit the same. They have a question, they’re calling you and you answer the phone.
    There’s always someone trying to sell you something as well. Someone like me trying to sell you some business coaching.

So you answer the phone because you buy into that urgency that’s out there. They want a response quick so you feel like you have to give it to them.

  • You feel like if you don’t help your staff instantly, it’ll fuck something up which might cost you money.
  • You feel like if you don’t get back to your customers instantly, they’ll go elsewhere. Well, they’ll be unhappy and cause problems elsewhere. All that.

But that’s not really true.

Most people will wait and I’ll come back to that.

And what happens here is of course because you’re responding and buying into this urgency thing all the time, you – the most important person in your business, the one responsible for growing it, responsible for putting systems and structure in place, responsible for hiring new people, and deciding and making decisions and for driving new business and for driving profit, spends all your time looking after everybody else.

The consequences of responding to interruptions.

  • You spend all your time looking after other people, fighting fires and dirt, generally doing work that’s not highly profitable or highly necessary for the business, just kind of sweeping up after everybody.
  • You’re marching to the beat of other people’s drums and not your own. And that’s bad, right?

That means you’re not in charge, it means you’re not in control, and it means you’re not driving your business where you want it to go.

Recommended Reading: You’re a Bottleneck. What to Do? Jamie’s story

Now, this hack is quite simple and challenging, and it operates best in a broader context. So if I was coaching you:

  • We’d be working on systems.
  • We’d be working with training your staff so that they needed less help.
  • We’d be working on training your customers so that they understood better.
  • We do a whole heap of things so it does work on its own.

I’m going to encourage you to try it and I’ll explain why. So we’ll do a few things. We’d be directing people to other people in your organization to get their answers rather than having you be the point man for everything, for example, if we’re coaching. But this hack is something simple you can do right now.

What’s the hack to shut down interruptions?

  1. Turn your phone off

Okay, so first take a deep breath… and understand you don’t need to answer the phone every time.

Okay, every time you answer the phone, it causes you to stop doing what you’re doing and you attend to that immediate urgent problem. You don’t need to do that. So turn your phone off. Don’t listen to it ring. Don’t let it interrupt you.

I told you, you need to take a deep breath, right?

You don’t need to turn it off for the entire day. I might suggest you have it turned on from first thing in the morning to a 10 o’clock, and then off until 1 pm, and then on for half-an-hour and then off till 4 pm, and on for the rest of the day. So you’ve got two periods there in the day when your phone’s going to be off.

How about that? No interruptions.

You’ll get some things done.  If you really need to be understood you can go and work from home, and tell everyone you’ll be gone and unavailable, and they shouldn’t call, and they shouldn’t email and expect an immediate answer.

  2. Change your voicemail

The second thing you can do which goes along with the first is change your voicemail to something like this, “Hi! You’ve reached Jon Dale. This is my voicemail. I check my messages at 9, 1, and 4 o’clock, and I’ll get back to you then.  If you would leave me a message with your phone number please.”

Something like that.

And that’s it. And that does two things. Okay.

You stopped answering the phone and you get your time back, and what it does for your customers, staff, suppliers is it lets them know when you’ll be calling them back. So they know they’re getting called back within a reasonable timeframe.

Don’t panic or stress. And this fear of yours that if you don’t attend to it quick doesn’t need to happen, right?  You can leave that voicemail.

  • Your customers and your suppliers get a bit of certainty about when you’re going to get back to them so they relax a bit. “Okay I get he’ll get back to me at 4, he is busy.”
  • Your staff is going to think for themselves and stop relying on you to do everything for them.

So there you go…

That’s it. Please believe me. It’s very effective. And it frees up time for you to go and do the important work that you need to do instead of getting to the end of the day and realizing that you did nothing or achieved nothing you wanted to today.

If there’s a real emergency, they can call an ambulance, can’t they?

Alright, so go ahead and comment in the comments below tell me what you think.

Better still, change your voicemail and adopt this new system and in a couple of days, tell me how it’s going. It would be really interesting.

If you want to talk to me about it, or you want to talk to me about the Tradies Toolbox Coaching Program, go ahead and book yourself a 10 or 15-minute meeting with me.

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See you later.

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About the Author

Jon Dale

Jon likes helping business owners and especially owners of trades businesses. Life can be a bit frustrating when you run a business and a trade business can be even more so. Jon reckons this stuff is fixable and that you can fix it by making some fairly simple changes to the way you do things. In fact, he runs a free monthly webinar to help explain the process further of moving your business from manual to scalable.

You can connect with Jon Dale on:

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