How we manage these distractions will greatly improve our effectiveness and productivity.
1. Crisis management
You've already planned your day when a crisis develops that needs your immediate attention. This can create disruption to your day.
- Don't let someone else's crisis become your problem. Avoid responding to requests that seem urgent but may not really be furthering your work goals.
- When planning your work day, always ask yourself, "What is the best use of my time right now?" That will help you set priorities and focus your energy on the important tasks.
- Problems will always develop, so plan for them. Set aside some time each day to deal with unexpected issues.
2. Attempting too much
It's easy to take on more than you can handle –If you don't schedule enough time to do things properly, you'll be left with half-finished projects and no sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
- Start by setting realistic goals for yourself. Plan your activities each day, taking into account specific time commitments, such as meetings and appointments. Identify and prioritise all the tasks you have to complete and do the important jobs first.
- Plan enough time to complete your 'to do' list. Make sure you schedule some time to deal with unexpected interruptions.
- Plan to finish the main task you've set for each day before you go home at night.
- Do your best to complete one task before starting another.
- Learn to say no graciously.
The biggest time stealer of all is not making a decision.You can waste away time postponing or avoiding work that you really should be doing.
- The longer you put a job off, the more it clutters up your schedule. Don’t delay – do it now
- If you're avoiding a task because it seems difficult or overwhelming, try breaking it down into smaller chunks and tackling a little bit each day.
- Arrange set times of the day for repetitive tasks, such as going through mail, responding to memos, etc.
4. Telephone interruptions
The telephone is one of our greatest communication tools – but it can also be our biggest time waster.
- Plan a specific 'telephone time' for returning calls. By grouping your calls, you'll complete them quickly and minimize the disruptions in your daily work.
- Avoid prolonging work-related calls with unnecessary social chitchat. Get your caller down to business quickly by asking "How may I help you?”
- Let your caller know your time constraints.
- Try to avoid being placed 'on hold' when making a phone call. If someone is unavailable, arrange a time to call back or leave a message and your phone number.
- Encourage the use of e-mail – it’s less disruptive and you can respond at a time that's convenient
5. Unexpected visitors
Unexpected, 'drop-in' visitors can take up your time.
- Stand up when a colleague or visitor comes into your office, your body language will then send the message that you're busy. Chances are your visitor will also remain standing and will get to the point quickly, instead of sitting down for an extended visit
- Establish the purpose of the unexpected visit as soon as possible, then deal with the issue immediately or arrange for a follow-up meeting at a more convenient time.
- Don’t engage in small talk and set a clear time limit for the discussion.
- Don't use an interruption as an excuse to stop work on a task or project. Make note of what you were doing when you were interrupted and get back to your task immediately after the call or visit is over.
- Plan specific times for discussing routine matters with colleagues, staff or parents. That will help limit the number of unexpected interruptions in your day.
E-mail communications can overload us, so finding the right way to manage this will help your productivity
- Read your e-mail in batches. Process your e-mail at regular times of the day. Resist the temptation to check your messages constantly – it disrupts your focus on the task at hand.
- Take action on e-mail the first time you read it. If you can answer an e-mail quickly, then do it.
- Delete a message as soon as you've dealt with it. The more messages you save, the more you add to the clutter on your computer – and the harder it will be to find the messages you really do need to keep.
- Schedule time to respond to messages that need more attention. If you can't answer an e-mail immediately, save the message and plan some time in your calendar to deal with it.
- Deal with unwanted e-mail immediately. If you receive unsolicited e-mail, take the time to unsubscribe or ask the sender to take you off their list. Consider installing an e-mail filter that will send unsolicited e-mail or spam to a bulk or delete folder, so that it doesn't clog up your inbox.
- Review and clean saved e-mail each month. Start with the most recent messages and work your way back to the older ones.
- Fill in the subject line properly when you send an e-mail message. Many people respond to e-mail messages without changing the subject line. As the e-mail travels back and forth, the message gradually changes, but the subject line doesn't. An inaccurate subject line makes the information in the e-mail difficult to retrieve or archive. Always ensure that your subject line clearly highlights the content of your message.
- Delete any unnecessary portions of the original message when you reply. This reduces the size of the file you're sending out and keeps your message focused.