Tag Archive: interruptions



As I mentioned before, for creative people, the mention of having a time management system might make them cringe because they may not be so fond of structure.  That structure contributes to the creative process and there are a few steps that will get you there.

First, know what I call your “power time”.  It’s important to know what time of day you are most alert; when you’re at your best and your creative juices flow most freely.  This is precious time for those who create for a living.  Treat it as such.  Use a good portion of this time to create your masterpieces.  When planning your day, set other times of the day for tasks that don’t require as much of your energy and concentration.

Create and maintain a to-do list.  Know that you don’t have to say “yes” to everything that comes your way.  You have the power of choice.  Exercise it wisely.  The things that you choose to do go on this list.  Once they are there, on a regular basis,  review the tasks before you.  Decide which take priority and tackle them accordingly. This allows you to avoid spending time on tasks that aren’t important, which is what happens when there is no rhythm (planning).  It’s easier to follow the bright shiny objects that come along instead of following a plan of any kind.  This might be a difficult thing to do, but it will allow you to make progress and maintain your freedom because you won’t be in reaction mode.

Most importantly, manage your interruptions.  At times, make yourself unavailable-turn off the phone, close your door, and don’t accept visitors.  Of course you’ll want to do this while you are creating, but there are other times you may wish to do so in order to keep up your productive flow.  That phone call or knock at the door might be important, but they are, nonetheless, interruptions.  Interruptions eat away at your concentration, making you less productive.

During the course of your day, keep a notebook handy so that you can quickly jot down things that need to be done or quick reminders.  This will keep you focused on what you are doing and keep those things that need to be done in front of you.  When you’re reviewing the things that need to be done, you can take items from your notebook and place them on your to-do list.

I encourage you to be creative in establishing your rhythm.  What’s important is that it includes tools and patterns in your daily activities that support you.  It doesn’t have to look like the “norm”, but you have to have it in order to be “in the zone” and keep your freedom.  Having and moving to your own rhythm is vital to your creative process in more than one way.

 


Break; pause; disruption; intermission; interlude; disturbance; intrusion; stoppage; interval.  No matter what you call it, it’s an interruption.   We all are interrupted throughout the course of our workday, by people and by things that may not necessarily always be in our control.  No matter what the interruption is or how many of them we encounter during our day, the truth of the matter is that if you want to have a very productive day, you have to get a handle on managing those interruptions.   Get ahead of the game and start by preventing interruptions before they occur.

When you control interruptions and eliminate distractions in your day, you have more time to work on the things that matter.  Look at the things that keep interrupting your day or keep you from working on what matters most.  What are the things that interrupt you the most and why? What’s interrupting you right now?  What can you do to put a stop to that distraction?

If you can’t answer this question right away, keep track over the period of one week of what is interrupting you and the reason for each interruption.  Also make a note of how much time you spend on each distraction.  At the end of the week, add up the accumulated time spent on the distractions. As you review your list, ask yourself what you can do to stop the various distractions.

One common interruption is the telephone.  It may not always be possible to not take phone calls or answer the phone, but there are times that it’s possible to have someone take messages, let the calls go to voice mail or place the phone on do not disturb and return calls later in the day.  This is especially helpful when you’re working on one of your top priority items.  You can keep working and know that you can still address the needs of those on the other end of the phone, just not right at that time.

Coworkers present another common interruption.  It might be that they come to your workspace or office because they need something from you.  To cut down on those interruptions, change your habits.  When someone enters your space, ask them what they need and let them know that if it’s something that will only take a few minutes, you can stop and help them right then; if it’s going to take longer, find out what it is that they need and set a time to talk to them or to get them what they need a little later in the day.  This helps keep you on track with your top priorities and keeps your day flowing.

Others may stop by because they want to chat about their weekend or something that happened.  It’s easy to get caught up in it, but it costs you precious time and brings your productivity level down.  If you have an extra chair in your office and you don’t want to remove it, try placing a personal item such as your briefcase or coat in it to stop people from coming in and sitting down.  If they have to stand, they may be inclined to spend less time in your office, but once they sit down, they are likely to spend more time visiting.  People are less likely to move personal items to sit down.

If you have an office, close the door occasionally to help curb interruptions.  For example, I used to do payroll at a job that I had some time ago, which is something where there was no room for error.  The problem was that I had multiple interruptions.  My remedy was to close my office door from the time I started the payroll process until I finished and then deal with the requests that people had after that.

These may seem like simple actions to take, but they are quite effective.  You develop new habits around interruptions and begin to learn how to handle them effectively and others begin to respect your time.  You will be surprised at how much these simple things can help increase your productivity level.


We live in such an excessive society.  Everything is bigger these days-our homes, our cars (although that seems to be shifting), even the meals that we eat.  As a society we waste so much.

We also waste our time.  The difference is that time is something we don’t have in excess.  We each get the same amount of time each day and once it’s spent, it’s gone for good.

How much of your time are you wasting?  Do you honestly know where your time is going?  On average, individuals spend any where from 1.5 to 2 hours of each work day searching for things-files, documents on their computers, contact information, and the list goes on.  Not to mention the other ways that time gets wasted.  Multiply that wasted time by 5 work days and that’s 7.5 to 10 hours every week when nothing is getting done.  With typically 20 work days in each month, that’s 150 to 200 hours of wasted time every month for the average individual, which means that there are a lot of “to-dos” that aren’t getting done.

So, how do you know you’re wasting significant time?  Begin by looking for indicators:

  • Messy desk, cluttered work space, things not filed
  • Not being able to find things
  • Missing, being late for or often rescheduling appointments
  • Arriving to meetings unprepared
  • Tired and/or unable to concentrate

Once you’ve identified the indicators, work on the solutions:

  • Organize your entire work space
  • Determine your time management personality and establish a time management system that fits that personality
  • Plan your work-daily and weekly and prioritize your list
  • Focus on important and not urgent things (this comes into play once you establish good habits)
  • Eliminate procrastination
  • Delegate the things that you can
  • Learn your personal energy cycles and use them
  • Control interruptions effectively

When you begin working on the solutions, know that although you may be implementing things immediately, it takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit.  Allow yourself the time and the room to do so, and when you revert to old habits, simply acknowledge what you’re doing and get back on track.  It’s also a good idea to enroll someone in what you’re doing and ask for support as part of your system for getting a handle on managing your time effectively, and improving your productivity.  Remember, how you spend your time is what makes the difference and impacts your bottom line.


Part 2:

To round out the list of things that you can begin to do right now to gain control over your workload, try implementing these habits:

Work on the tasks that are important but not urgent- Usually people find themselves working on those things that are urgent but not important. Things like non productive meetings, interruptions and the mail. What we really want to be able to focus on are the things that are not urgent, but important. Those are the things that involve prevention, planning, seizing opportunities and recreation. Knowing that 80% of our desired results come from 20% of high leverage activities, we can see that the greatest payoff would come from working on those things that are important but not urgent. By doing so, you position yourself to spend less time handling crises; working smarter, not harder.

Break larger tasks down into smaller pieces so that the larger task is easy to accomplish. Look at it as though you are eating a meal. You eat a meal one bite at a time. Break the larger task down into components or bites and take each one of those on individually. When you finish one of the components, celebrate your accomplishment. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but do it. It will help to fuel you along and get the other pieces of the larger task done.


To add to the list of possible interruptions, we can look to those in our work environment.  Coworkers present another common interruption.  It might be that they come to your workspace or office because they need something from you.  To cut down on those interruptions, change your habits.  When someone enters your space, ask them what they need and let them know that if it’s something that will only take a few minutes, you can stop and help them right then; if it’s going to take longer, find out what it is that they need and set a time to talk to them or to get them what they need a little later in the day.  This helps keep you on track with your top priorities and keeps your day flowing.  

Others may stop by because they want to chat about their weekend or something that happened.  It’s easy to get caught up in it, but it costs you precious time and brings your productivity level down.  If you have an extra chair in your office and you don’t want to remove it, try placing a personal item such as your briefcase or coat in it to stop people from coming in and sitting down.  If they have to stand, they may be inclined to spend less time in your office, but once they sit down, they are likely to spend more time visiting.  People are less likely to move personal items to sit down. 

If you have an office, close the door occasionally to help curb interruptions.  For example, I used to do payroll at a job that I had some time ago, which is something where there was no room for error.  The problem was that I had multiple interruptions.  My remedy was to close my office door from the time I started the payroll process until I finished and then deal with the requests that people had after that.  That became my habit.  My coworkers got into the habit of not disturbing me on Monday mornings.  If they forgot and came to my office, they remembered that the closed door on a Monday meant that I was busy with payroll, and they could come back in a couple of hours.  They also came to know that if the door was closed at any other time that I couldn’t help them at that point in time, but would be available later on.

These may seem like simple actions to take, but they are quite effective.  You develop new habits around interruptions and begin to learn how to handle them effectively and others begin to respect your time.  You will be surprised at how much these simple things can help increase your productivity level.

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