Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Got a Minute?

Interruptions rate as one of the greatest time management issues. Some jobs, such as the supervision of apprentices, come with an inherent expectation of interruptions, but for most other positions, interruptions can and should be controlled. Some helpful strategies are:

  • When the person asks if you've got a minute, reply that you can give five minutes. When the five minutes are over, announce "Time's up" and say you've got to get back to work. [This is assuming that the subject was a garden variety matter and not a potential lawsuit or disaster.] You will come out way ahead on this one. I wish I could take credit for this idea but I first found it in one of Julie Morgenstern's books on time management.
  • Limit your open door policy to certain hours every day. The rest of the time requires an appointment. Believe me, if the place is on fire, they'll tell you.
  • Find a hideaway, such as a coffee shop or library, where you can go to collect your thoughts and complete work without interruption.
  • Have a ten minute morning staff meeting where your direct reports review what's happening in their respective areas and whether they need to schedule a meeting with you. This is fast, efficient, and conveys a sense of urgency.
  • Confront the interrupter. Tell him or her to save the information for a ten minute meeting that will be set for the end of the day.

These aren't fool-proof, but they can give you a fighting chance to reclaim your schedule.

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