When I want someone to know how I feel, I stoutly wear that feeling all over my face. Nope, not emotional… intentional. If I have something to say, you will know it. So when I was constantly being interrupted at work, by emails that should have been delegated to someone else, unnecessary questions, and office gossip pouring into my office, I had to take an honest look around and could only blame myself for the interruptions. After all, as I stated: if I wanted anyone to know that I wasn’t “feeling” these interruptions, I would have shown it by now. Not only was I getting annoyed, but I was also falling behind on my to-do list. Of which makes me feel entirely unsuccessful and fulfilled at work. Apparently, I had some very clear boundaries I needed to set and some time management issues to resolve.
At the time I was working on a very large and earnest project. One that was not only challenging but one that required undivided attention. Ergo, when I had the opportunity to complete said project from the comfort of my own home: I jumped at the chance, ran screaming for the doors, peeled out of the office parking lot and never looked back.
Well, until I had too…
True, I wasn’t being interrupted every 10 minutes. And true I could get up at 4:00 am and power through lunch without a break to help the kids with their homework. Then, yes, I could pop back on and get in a 12 hour work day before most had started the dreaded rush hour traffic home. And yes, speaking of traffic, I was no longer sitting in it. However, after returning to the office, I started to notice things about the office environment that had once helped meet objectives, not threaten them.
According to cnbc.com, time management is a big issue at the office. Stating that over 3 hours a day is wasted by email, phone, internet, personal phones and co-worker drop-bys. For those of us dreaming of a remote lifestyle (or continued remote lifestyle), this news certainly pushes us to get up from our desks – like right now – march into our boss’ office and demand the flexibility to work from home. After all, there are too many distractions at work! Right?!
But before you storm into your boss’ office and demand remote work, I’m here to let you in on a little secret:
Work distractions are not only inevitable, some are necessary. And quite honestly, the cost of not only doing business, but the cost of doing good business.
With our sense of accomplishment, confidence to perform our jobs and the bosses perception at stake when we begin to miss deadlines, it’s vital we curtail these office interruptions and transform them into time management powerhouses for good business – I’ll tell you how.
First, let’s understand how interruptions are good for business:
People change people that change the industry
My daughter and I religiously were watching this Disney show titled: “Girl meets world’. A spin-off from throwback 90’s show: “Boy meets girl.” It’s a kitschy show packed with encouraging and powerful one-liners:
People change people.
I have found myself quoting this as my daughter gets closer to all the drama of being a growing pre-teen and the importance of choosing friends wisely. But I began to see it’s relevance after returning to work. People change people. And I had been missing out on all of it.
From my office, in the break room, or during those co-worker drop-ins; I could hear business processes breaks, control issues, items that had negative – or positive – financial impact. Co-workers that were customer facing had great ideas of how to retain customers and employees. Co-workers over in development had great ideas on how to help market our product. Sales reps talked about what developments could help meet customers needs. And all these great things were either communicated or NOT communicated up through, you guessed it, PEOPLE. Without some of that co-worker drop-bys or water cooler talks that take maybe a little bit more of our time than we intended when we said “good morning, Bob” – turns out they can be good for business.
These are ideas that wouldn’t necessarily come up with sweatpant conference calls because they weren’t happening in the normal business conversations. They were happening as people talked with people. And in those conversations, people had the opportunity to help change what was happening to the business. When this clicked for me, the once biggest pet peeve of mine, (unannounced drop-ins), can be appreciated and necessary. And I then needed to couple this with effective time management skills for a more effective working atmosphere.
Human interaction, discovery, communication. People change people who change the business.
Build relationships and promote teamwork
Another thing I noticed, when we allow time for this interaction, we create bonds with those with whom we work. Call it allies in the jungle of the workplace, call it friends, call it partners, call it frenemies (I can’t believe spell check can even pick up this millennial slang) – I don’t care. What is important is that when you spend half of your waking life either driving to or working at your place of business you, tend to form some connection with those of whom you spend that waking time. Working effectively is not just about time management, but also with whom you are working during that time.
If we can make those connections meaningful, we get a group of team members that buy into one another and help each other head in the same direction. And while we are tech savvy and social media frenzied, we still have a disposition for personal contact, connection, and physically social interactions. These interactions build trust and promote teamwork.
Invite deeper investment
And what comes of relationships and teamwork? Satisfaction on the job. And what of that you say? Our teams end up investing more of themselves, their ideas and their skills into the company. Our teams are invited to invest deeper in their careers, which benefits the top and bottom lines.
“But my team spends WAY too much time on things like personal calls, gossip, and emails,” you say. And I get it. No one gets it more than I do. Trust me; I’ve offended many people when I’ve had to shut down these distractions for the sake of a deadline. I’m not saying we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We should accept some of these distractions as beneficial, and then with our remaining time, be extremely aware of our use of time management skills to still accomplish our goals and use the information garnered in those distractions to propel our companies further.
four highly practical time management tips
Cut out the toxic interruptions
First, let me start by saying: abusing company internet use, gossip, and personal phone overuse is not what I’m talking about here when I say interruptions are good for business. Those interruptions are unnecessary, toxic and completely in your control to reduce. Do you have someone coming into your office daily and complaining about anything and everything? Sure, blowing off steam is one thing. Constantly creating a negative workspace is another. This impacts the work of others and if you are spending your entire morning helping someone else feel better, (that just isn’t going to feel better no matter what). This kind of interruption is only going to be toxic. It’s a horrible interruption that needs to be expired ASAP.
Furthermore, if you are the naysayer and toxic interruption, I’d suggest finding another outlet to blow off your steam, perhaps outside of company walls and co-workers. Or do something about it and either be the change you want to see or find another devil to dance with and say adios to your current company. In the long run, it would be better for everyone involved.
I equate it to a poor marriage. If the two spouses of said poor marriage complained to one another about one another, neither one of them would ever have the courage or encouragement to do anything that would make their marriage thrive. So too with work environment and relationships.
Let’s face it; we spend too much time at work to feel like we are in a dead marriage with it. So, don’t let yourself or anyone else worsen the atmosphere. For effective time management, cut out the toxic interruptions.
Manage your time before anyone else has the opportunity
Manage your work day before someone else has the opportunity to do so. There are several areas in this time management tip that you need to consider.
- Email: Many times we get to work and the first thing we do is open email. Stop doing that, like yesterday. What this says to your brain and your work day is that you are here to accomplish whatever objective is in your inbox, instead of the objectives you have on your plate, desk or to do list. You immediately are giving your first line of business away to someone else, to respond to someone else’s need. Stop doing this. At least stop doing this as action item number one. First focus on the emails you need to send out before responding the emails that were sent to you. This ensures that something on your plate has been addressed and you have established your brain and your workday that you are here to accomplish very specific goals, from YOUR list.
- Meetings: Blog out time on your calendar for meetings with yourself. Seriously. Finding it hard to get things on your to-do list accomplished? Block out time on your calendar, so others don’t schedule meetings at those times. You now will have a set time to work on your items. After all, your to-do list is to help your boss and your company. This is not a selfish way of handling business. This is a smart, proactive and effective way to not only handling your business but in getting things done.
- To do Items: You need to be spending time at the end of your day prepping your following day. Why? Because it helps you close the day out, so you have a clear mind when you are home. This clearing of the mind, helps you to refresh the productive day ahead. Additionally, this allows you to walk in the next morning with your goals set and ready to tackle. Knowing what you need to have accomplished when you first walk into the office, helps to focus on accomplishing those things. And while some of those requests from others may be important, you still have your objectives that you must accomplish to perform well for your company. You might want to concentrate on those.
Do only the top 3 most important tasks
I’ll keep this short and sweet. And this advice comes from the CEO of a multi-billion dollar public company where I was employed. In an interview, the CEO gave some important advice for productivity and time management. Fist he had this to say: a whole lot of people in any organization are working hard, but not many are getting anything done.
And we all have been there. We all know what it feels like to work ourselves to the bone and not have touched the items on our to-do list, nor meet the objectives set by our employer. To combat this, said CEO advised to have only the three most important tasks on your to-do list for the day. And do only those three things until they are done. Anything else delegate or ignore.
Want to make an impact? Do only the three things that will make the largest impact on the company or your boss. Put all your effort into those three things. And those other million items that fall on your desk, perhaps they could be someone else’ 3 most important things. But we can all only effectively manage 3.
Yes, 3. I’m serious. Make them impactful, make them meaningful, and make them push the needle for the company. Otherwise, you are just working hard, but not getting anything done.
Learn your work rhythm (do the hardest items during your ‘go time’)
Finally, I’ll leave you with this: do your hardest items during your peak hours. For me, my peak hours are between 4:00 am and about noon. My husband is about 5:00 pm to midnight. Take a mental note of when you are your sharpest and most alert. Do those top 3 items during those hours. When you have your dead zones, (mine is around 2:00 pm), do simple things like clean up emails and delegate work.