Business Time Management

By Robyn Pearce

Business time management can cover a myriad of things, and we’ve got many other solutions for you all over this website. More articles are at: www.gettingagrip.com/articles/ and you’ll want to check out www.gettingagrip.com/products-and-online-programs/

In the meantime, here are some solutions for one of the biggest time stealers in business – constant interruptions.

How often do you come into work bright and sharp, the work at your desk beckons invitingly, you can’t wait to get started, and then the day turns to muck? One thing after another claims your attention; the rest of the world is clearly in conspiracy against your productivity and at the end of the day you collapse into an untidy heap of exhausted humanity.

Sound familiar?

Try these strategies to have more control over interruptions!


1.    Turn off or divert the phone
If you must have the phone answered by a real person, divert it to a pager service or another colleague while you attend to important high-concentration tasks.

2.    Schedule appointments with yourself for the big tasks
There’s something about a written appointment – it gives you more power to say ‘No, I’m sorry, I can’t stop.’

3.    Either shut the door (if you’ve got one) or make yourself unavailable in some obvious way
An hour (at least) of uninterrupted time every day would transform the lives and job satisfaction of most people.

4.    E-mail
Turn off your message notifier. Schedule two or three daily non-prime-time slots for e-mail. A delay of a few hours doesn’t matter – email shouldn’t be used for time-sensitive matters. If we go there first in the day we run the serious danger of being swallowed up by the addictive world of the Internet. Suddenly the day has vanished and it seems that all we’ve done is major in minor things.

5.    Skim
If you’ve been out of your office for any time, skim your waiting mail quickly for peace-of-mind but then get down to the most important work. Unless it really is the most important thing, don’t let the new item steal your attention until it’s the ‘right’ time.

If you’ve got an assistant or a PA, ask them to sort incoming material into priority piles so your ‘quick skim’ of familiarisation is even quicker.

As with any technique, skimming has both benefit and danger. Benefit – you get to your ‘real’ work with confidence, knowing exactly what lurks and when you need to do it. Downside – if you always skim and rarely or belatedly come back to complete you’ll soon have a Leaning Tower of ‘I’ll get round to it later’ piles all over the desk. Overwhelm becomes the dominant sensation!

6.    Chunk types of activity as well as specific tasks
Chunking focuses the mind. Allocate a piece of time to one task or activity only. For me, now it’s writing, soon it will be e-mails, then phone calls. Many people dart like swallows from one activity to another and then wonder why nothing ever seems to get completed.

7.    Keep focus
When interruptions come in, decide whether the interruption is of higher importance than what you’re working on. If not, put it on your daily list or ‘today’ action pile and keep going with the present activity.

8.    A clear desk
The space in which you work (for many that’s around your computer) is your potential interruption zone. Keep it clear of distractions. Items awaiting attention should be slightly or completely behind you, out of eye range. Otherwise, while you work the stacks of ‘stuff’ nearby wave invisible hands, shouting almost audibly ‘Pick me, pick me!’ This is a huge and invisible energy drain.

The interruptions never go away, but we can control them.

Robyn Pearce frees up time and makes the complex simple. She’s an international keynote speaker, author of multiple books on productivity and time management issues, and the developer of the Getting A Grip.com Productivity Training System, now being licensed worldwide.

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