One of the biggest time wasters is being constantly interrupted by emergencies that turn out not to be emergencies at all. Even worse is not getting interrupted by someone when there was a genuine emergency that you could have done damage control on or, if informed early enough, prevented.

In this article I will show you how to prioritize, communicate and manage so-called emergencies so you can start taking back control of your time and managing your desk more effectively.

First, make a list of the problems that people have come to you with in the past.


1. A supplier will be late with a part
2. A team member has an unexpected problem with a task that could affect deadline
3. Someone was injured in the workplace
4. Someone has reported being sexually harassed
5. There is a problem with a piece of equipment that doesn't affect safety
6. An employee needs clarification on how to do an ongoing task
7. A worthwhile charity requests the use of one of your pieces of equipment

And so on. Then create a class or standard for prioritizing.


SOP (standard operating procedure)
In a Perfect World
Not Part of our mission

Then, place each of the issues into a category. In this list a workplace injury or a sexual harassment complaint would be an emergency. A supplier being late with a part could be an emergency, urgent, important or SOP, depending on the deadline and how important the part is. An employee needing clarification with an ongoing task would be SOP. A problem with a piece of equipment would be SOP or important. A worthwhile charity could be classed as Important or In a Perfect World-only your strategic plan would give you guidance.

Publish your list with guidelines on how to communicate and handle each type of issue.

Emergency-Knock on the door, call or interrupt, text and email, track you down
Urgent-Qualify sense of urgency and then call, stop by or email depending.
Important-Qualify level and then communicate through channels
SOP-Email or set up a coaching session
In a Perfect World-file to review during corporate citizenship meeting

Next: When interrupted ask-"As we have defined issues is this an Emergency, Urgent, Important, SOP or In A Perfect World?"

If it is an emergency-respond immediately. If Urgent ask-"Is this something than can wait until this afternoon or will it affect our customers if it isn't taken care of this morning? If Important-"Is this something that will hurt our relationship with our clients if we wait until our meeting in two days or do our we need to deal with it before then?" If SOP-"Can this wait until our training session or is the ROI enough to warrant a more immediate coaching session? If In a Perfect World- "Is this important enough to bring up at our corporate citizenship meeting?"

Like most process improvements it will take more work now to make a better world tomorrow. Very quickly you will find that you and your team will come into agreement on how to handle issues. Soon after this you will find yourself being interrupted much less often, and even more important, you will be called in on genuine emergencies quickly enough to make a difference.

Action items.

1. Establish a class of importance for issues such as Emergency, Urgent, Important, SOP and In a Perfect World.
2. Establish a list of which issue goes where on your priority list.
3. Create qualifying questions.
4. Establish how and when to communicate each class of priority.
5. Enjoy greater efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace.
6. Have more time to work on things that matter
7. Be interrupted less often!

Author's Bio: 

John is the light, the spark and the glue. Through consulting, keynote talks, workshops and webinars, using humor and great process, he helps project teams, leaders and honorable sales people own the skills, plan and courage to do what they must do.

One of John's most popular workshops is designed for supervisors, managers and leads, especially new ones and is called, "Creating an Environment of Accoutability." Learn how to catch problems early, (crushing baby Godzilla) and deal with them with our LIFTS and PRAISEM templates for conversations that prevent early bad behaviors from becoming bad habits. Discover the difference between a problem and a condition and learn to deal with both. Learn to love delegation and learn how to master it. Learn our REAPP process for persuasion and more.

Watch John in action on his youtube channel now

Contact him for quotes on consulting, keynotes, webinars and workshops at