Years ago, the telephone and the occasional drop-in visitor were the main sources of interruptions for a manager. Then email came along, followed by cell phones, instant messaging, etc. Now managers are inundated with beeps and bells and ring tones. Sure there have been productivity improvements as a result of these tools. However, due to misuse and abuse, often they actually hinder productivity.
Too many managers today just blow with the wind. They may come to work with a list of things to accomplish that day, but typically the list just grows as managers drift from one interruption to the next. The only way to make a dent in their to-do lists is to put in extra hours. Extra work time breeds resentment and eventually burnout, resulting in a whole new set of problems.
Smart phones, social media, and instant messaging are not evil, and they are most certainly here to stay. They can be extremely helpful if used in the right ways. The following are a few tips to help avoid the pitfalls and improve your effectiveness.
1. Set Aside Time for Disruptions
Since you know that, sooner or later, at least one of your colleagues or customers is going to interrupt you when you’re doing something, set some time aside specifically for them and their needs.
2. Try to Postpone Non-Emergencies
Once you’ve identified an interruption as something that needs attention and not just a waste of time, try to postpone your involvement. Take a moment to understand what the distraction involves. Is anyone dying? Is there a deadline being missed? If it turns out the situation is not an emergency, postpone your involvement or delegate as much of the work to somebody who is available.
3. Turn All Counterproductive Electronic Devices Off
Before embarking on an important task, turn everything off! This will eliminate the possibility of a distraction killing your productivity. The key is to concentrate on the work at hand.
4. Turn Off All Notification Devices
Resist the urge to answer your phone or email notification every time you hear a beep. Finish up what you are doing, then retrieve your voice mail or email message and act accordingly. Follow up is critical, but following up within 3 seconds is not.
5. Avoid Getting Swept up in Reactive Mode
It’s an easy trap to fall into. It can be quite exhilarating “fighting fires” all day. Jumping in to solve crises is rewarding and addictive. Being needed is feels good too. It’s also much easier to bop from one task to another than to take time to think, prioritize, and plan.
6. Divide Your Day up into Targets
Distractions are most dangerous to the person working without short-term goals. You can keep yourself out of the danger zone by setting goals throughout the workday. Make sure these targets are Smart: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
7. Think Before You Interrupt Another Person
This way you won’t be contributing to the problem. By taking responsibility to minimize other’s interruptions, you can greatly improve workplace productivity.
Managers will always have to deal with interruptions. How they deal with them is a major factor in determining their effectiveness. In today’s world, the proliferation of interruptions caused by productivity tools has made it increasingly challenging for managers to do their jobs well. Learning how to use the tools effectively, which sometimes means turning them off, is critical to achieving success.
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