By Paula Eder.
You can use good time management strategies to prioritize, organize, and plan ahead. In addition to time management skills, you also need the skills for managing inevitable interruptions that challenge your focus and productivity.
If you sharpen these skills it will keep you on track. If you neglect them you may lose your focus and your effectiveness, and it will result in a loss in productivity.
Look at this scenario; you have a deadline and the clock is ticking bringing you closer to it as you work hard to meet it. You are churning out creative ideas and meeting your targets, ticking off items on your to-do list and then suddenly, someone pops into your office.
How do you feel about this distraction? You have to respond to this distraction on the fly. This requires skills that are different from the skills required for planning and prioritizing.
Your response is important in two ways:
The What of Your Response
The what of your response determines what happens next, and in the time that follows. Do you pause and spend time with the person? Do you stay on track and ask him or her to come back later?
How You Respond
How you respond can make you feel either empowered or depleted. Do you invite the person in but feel disturbed by your choice? Does your response leave you feeling less or more in charge of your time and yourself? This significantly affects your energy as you move ahead.
The best time to plan is BEFORE the interruptions happen. These three tips will help you maintain effectiveness in a world where focused time is at a premium and interruptions are the norm.
How to Manage Interruptions
You can accomplish more and enjoy a morale boost when you plan ahead for interruptions. (And the distractions don’t have to be people – they can be ideas, interesting websites, you name it!)
The secret lies in your creating proactive patterns. You redirect distractions to scheduled appointments. In doing so you give them their due while you protect your focus and priorities.
3 Tips to Keep You Focused, Effective and Flexible
1. Discover ways you actually invite interruptions from other people.
With friendly energy, document the ways that you reward people for interrupting you. For example, do you keep your door open? Look up and smile? There may be many ways that you subtly invite unscheduled visits.
Remember that this is not an exercise in self-criticism; endeavor to thank and validate yourself for each insight! This is a very practical and powerful way to start making more conscious choices and reclaiming your time. This is all entirely within your control!
2. Redirect interruptions to time you’ve reserved.
Whenever possible block out the time of day that you are most productive for activities you have prioritized in advance.
Next, choose a different section of the day/block of time for responding to requests and other things that pop up during the day. This can be either for external interruptions or for the good ideas.
Estimate how much time you generally need to attend to these matters and then set that block of time aside in your schedule. If you have a hard time maintaining boundaries around this time, scheduling it as the last thing before lunch or before you leave work gives you a clear endpoint.
A good practice is to keep your appointment book nearby and as interruptions arise, schedule them in for the time you’ve reserved. Be specific and be sure to follow-through on the appointments. This builds trust between you and the people you deal with, and gives them the assurance that the issue will be addressed, and so you can return to your work more quickly.
If some of your interruptions come via phone or e-mail, you can set up auto-responses to indicate that you’ll get back to people at a specified time of day.
3. Proactively reduce interruptions by anticipating needs.
Are there external interruptions that you can anticipate? Seize the initiative and contact the person when it is convenient and set up a time to talk. Develop this habit and it will strengthen your capacity to coordinate a constructive energy flow for yourself. What might have been an interruption is now one of your priorities!
As you explore your responses to interruptions, strive to see this as a time of investigation and experimentation. Look for fresh options to unfold, and be sure to encourage yourself by welcoming all the valuable lessons.
Taking the initiative when confronted with unexpected interruptions is very empowering! When you realize that your daily destiny is in your hands, that has an immediate and positive impact on your choices, your focus, and your productivity.
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