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Pointers – Dealing with interruptions

31 October 2018

How can you deal with the interruptions to your working day, in particular when you need to get your head down and get on with a report? Here are some tips and tricks from your peers.

At the recent Paraplanners Powwow, Elsa Ordonez Garcia and Rebecca Tuck facilitated a discussion on time management and, in particular, dealing with interruptions.

In order for the number of interruptions and the impact on your working day to be taken seriously, it was suggested, one of the first things to be done was to establish, through data, that this was a problem.

One paraplanner described how she had recorded how many times on the day she was interrupted, to illustrate the disruption to her productivity. She used Harvest, the time recording tool, to do this, noting how she was interrupted and for how long.

The results showed that a significant four hours of her day was being taken up by things that weren’t related to what needed to be done. To illustrate the extent of the impact of those interruptions on her productivity, she then compared that with how productive she was when she worked away from her desk in a quiet area and also when she worked from home.

She then looked at where the interruptions were coming from. A large number it was found  came from telephone calls, followed by emails. It was a problem also being experienced by hr paraplanning team mates.

To counter these she and the rest of the team devised a  rota so that all calls were routed through to one person at specific points in the week and the day. This enabled others in the team to focus uninterrupted on the work in hand, which they found considerably improved their individual and overall productivity.

They used the same tactic in respect of email, turning email off and putting an ‘Out of Office’ message in place, but with the option to contact the person on their mobile if the matter was urgent. This cut down email interruption and hardly anyone called their mobiles. “If you put the ‘Out of Office’ message on then people assume you are literally out of the office.”

This is fine for internal contact but what about for paraplanners who have been introduced to clients as second points of contact, so they know they have more than one person working on their affairs? The downside to this arrangement, of course, is that they also know they can call you. As one paraplanner said: “It’s difficult to ignore a call from a client. If they can’t get hold of you on the phone then they email, which means you have then been contacted twice by the same client.”

One suggested way to deal with this is to set client expectations. “If you let clients know when you are available then they know when to call if they want to get hold of you. Most issues can wait until then and clients soon get used to it.”

Another benefit of logging and keeping track of daily productivity in this way, it was discovered, was that it also provided evidence when a paraplanner was being given too much to do, if the job was to be done properly.

For one team, working in a pooled environment, this saw them re-assess how they were allocated cases. “Now, we have advisers colour code the cases they send through to reflect their importance and priority in the workstream. It took a while to implement but once it was in place we could set turnaround times for each priority so everyone knew what to expect.”

The follow up to that initiative was working with the financial advisers on defining what the term ‘urgent’ meant.

Published in the November 2018 issue of Professional Paraplanner