How to Avoid Work Interruptions & Stay Focused on What Matters
Guest blog post from Margarita Sarmiento, ITK Consultants and Connect For More Training Associate.
We’re in that time of year again… the holiday rush is upon us and there’s no possible way for us to get everything done at work or at home. Or, is there? The guest blog below helps provide a few useful tips for how to manage your work time and interruption, staying focused on what matters most in this information overload society.
Did you know that during a normal workday, a person can lose up to 3 hours due to interruptions and time mismanagement? On average that means that EACH interruption can cost you UP TO 8 MINUTES OF TIME.
Believe it or not, managing these interruptions has a lot more to do with discipline than organization, and discipline is a skill that anyone can learn. The secret is to become aware of behaviors that are contributing to the interruptions AND develop new behaviors to replace them.
Here are two of the most common interruptions AND ways to address them:
People: Being available to help and support your coworkers is important, whether you are in a position of leadership or not. Unfortunately, people don’t always need you at the most convenient time for you. How do you communicate your needs to remain focused in a respectful way?
1. Create Focused Work Time – establishing a consistent schedule and informing those you work with of your preference. “I would love to support you, at any time and in any way I can; but from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is my focused work time and I prefer not to be interrupted during that time.” By being clear and following through, you can influence how others treat you.
2. Connect Intentionally – giving people your time and attention can be one of the most valuable gifts you can provide a co-worker. With your desire of presence in mind, schedule some time with one-on-one or in small groups with coworkers to meet (preferably offsite) to discuss their concerns and develop potential solutions together.
Technology: When technology works it can make our lives, and particularly our jobs, easier. The downside of the convenience that technology brings is the constant pull on our attention, and the urgency and often anxiety it creates. So how can you minimize distractions but still have access to the technology you need to do your job?
1. Turn off notifications on your phone and computer, and consider forwarding calls into voicemail. If you’re uncomfortable turning them off totally put them on vibrate until you get more comfortable with the lessened activity. Not having those visual interruptions and constant reminders actually help increase your productivity.
2. Schedule time to check e-mail, voicemail, and texts… AND stick with it! For instance, check emails at the top of the hour and voicemail/texts at the bottom of the hour. Or schedule 30-60 minutes first thing in the morning, directly after lunch and before the end of your workday.
3. Close unnecessary browsers on your computer. You can easily be distracted by old tabs or sites that you are no longer using, and keeping all of them open is the electronic overwhelming equivalent of a messy desk.
4. Finally, allow yourself time for “bad” habits. Permit yourself breaks to check social media, shop online, or surf the net, but set time limit and stick to it. You may even want to set a timer for 5-10 minutes to make sure you don’t lose track of time and productivity.
By identifying your most common interruptions and developing strategies to manage them, you can take back control of your day. These strategies if implemented can better help you manage your time and increase your productivity – all while minimizing work-related stress.
Margarita Sarmiento is an award-winning international trainer and consultant who designs, develops and delivers customized training programs for public, non-profit, and for-profit organizations. Her programs focus on improving performance and increasing profits by capitalizing on the diversity of the workforce, and engaging participants in thought-provoking, interactive workshops. An experienced key-note speaker, Margarita has the ability to intuitively connect with people by sharing her expertise through real-life stories and hands-on experiences. If you’re interested in learning more about how to reduce work-related stress and increase productivity, please contact Margarita Sarmiento.