Monday, March 29, 2010

How to protect your time.

Post 454 - In a study conducted by Microsoft Corporation, researchers taped 29-hours of people working and found that, on average, they were interrupted four times each hour. That's probably not very surprising. But this part is surprising: 40% of the time they didn't resume the task they were working on before they were disrupted. And the more complex the task, the less likely the person was to return to it. That means we're most often derailed from completing our most important work. The greatest single killer of our time is other people stealing it.

David Cottrell of Cornerstone Leadership shares the following tips to help you guard your space and keep your work day flowing without interruptions:

- When someone drops by your open door unannounced, take command of the visit by standing up, walking towards the door and meeting the visitor as he enters. Thus, with everyone standing near the door, the visitor is unlikely to settle in for a long conversation.

- Don't go along with small talk. Immediately ask the visitor, "What can I do for you?" This gets him straight to the reason for the visit - and if there isn't one, then move him right along with a minimum of chit-chat.

- If the visitor rambles on, take command in a respectful way. Signal the end of the conversation by saying, "One more thing before you go...." Then make your point and thank him for stopping by.

- If all else fails, move away from your office as if you're going to a meeting or to the restroom. Smile and say, "Let's talk about this later. Give me a call and we'll set up an appointment." Then wave and walk on.

- Remember "Hey, got a minute?" is a question, not a demand. Reply by saying, "Sure. I'll come to your office at noon and we can talk then." If you can get into the habit of scheduling appointments in other people's offices rather than your own, you'll have greater control over the length of the meeting.

- Consider rearranging your office so it's less likely to invite interruptions. Move your desk so it doesn't face the door. People are less likely to interrupt when they can't see your face.

- Get rid of extra chairs. You can always borrow one if you really need it.

- Limit the number of pictures on your desk. The more pictures, the more distractions for the drop-in visitor to talk about.

- Hide any candy dishes - they're major interruption magnets.

- Keep track of who's interrupting you, why they're interrupting, and when they interrupt. If it's your boss, explain your predicament and see if you can schedule one-to-one sessions (in his office) regularly during the week to deal with many issues at once rather than randomly as they come up.

- Be very aware of your own interrupting style. Use the previous approach in handling interruptions with your staff as well.

- Develop a one-page check-list and put it as a visual aid on everyone’s desk. In it, estimate the cost of unjustified interruptions. Suggest that before people interrupt, they ask questions such as:
– crucial or not crucial?
– nice to know or need to know?
– is now the right time?

Successful people manage to stay on task, whatever the distractions. Rod Serling, (The Twilight Zone), once observed, “It's difficult to produce a television documentary that's both incisive and probing when every twelve-minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”

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