Control How Others Affect Your Productivity

Carol Halsey
Business Organizing Solutions

One of the most difficult aspects of time management is controlling your day when others around you want to steal your time. Interruptions can eat up literally hours of precious, productive time each day. There are ways to discourage these interruptions without offending your co-workers, or family and friends, if you work from home.

In a business environment where several people work in a restricted area, the tendency is to chitchat and gossip during the day, which is a great waste of productive time. There is a very simple solution to take control of this situation easily. You can be tactful but at the same time discourage socializing.

When someone approaches your desk or sits down in your office and begins talking about anything but the work at hand, you could say, “I’m sorry (person’s name) but I am involved in (whatever you are doing) and (don’t want to lose my train of thought, or, have a tight deadline, or whatever is appropriate to what you are doing). Can it wait until later?

Example: “I’m sorry Jim, but I am working on this report, which I must finish before the end of the day. Can it wait until later?” Be assured, that in most cases this will work just fine, and the person will leave, and not be offended.

You have easily taken control of the situation. Be persistent with this method, and it won’t be too long before the talkers and socializers get the message that you do not want to be disturbed.

Where is it written that every time the phone rings you MUST answer it? Unless your primary job responsibility is to answer the phone, it is up to you to decide when you will answer it and when you will let others (staff, voice mail, message recorder) answer the phone for you.

The same goes for e-mail. In most cases, it is not necessary to check every time a new message arrives. Turn off the bell or buzzer that notifies you of incoming messages. It is just as intrusive as a ringing phone.

Under normal circumstances, there really is no reason why phone and e-mail messages cannot wait until you are ready to check them. This means, you do not interrupt what you are currently doing just to check messages. Staying focused on the task at hand will get you a lot further along with accomplishing your tasks for the day.

Decide when you will check your messages. That could be once an hour, or even better, first thing in the morning, again before lunch, again after lunch and again about an hour before you quit work for the day. Acting in this manner puts you in control of the phone, your e-mail, and your goals for the day. You are acting in a proactive manner, instead of letting others determine how you spend, or waste, your time.

If you have an office at home, it is important for your family to understand that when you are working, in your office, you are not to be interrupted except for an emergency. Define what an emergency is so it is clear to them. I know that this is hard to enforce at times, but look at it this way. If you can work uninterrupted, you will accomplish more in less time, and in the long run you will have more time to spend with your family.

You can then give them quality time, your full attention and interest. This is so much better than trying to listen with half an ear when they interrupt you, becoming frustrated with the interruptions, becoming distracted, and then having to work longer to get your work done. This is working smarter, not harder.

If you have a door on your office, enforce the closed door policy to discourage visitors and intruders. A closed door sends the message that you do not want to be disturbed. It may not be possible to close your door all day, and quite frankly, it is not a good idea to completely discourage good communication with co-workers. But there is nothing wrong with getting in the habit of closing the door for periods of time during the day.

When under great pressure to get a job completed, you do not have a door to close, and too many people are demanding your time, try taking your work to a vacant office or conference room, or work at home for a day if your company allows it.

Behaving in a proactive manner puts you squarely in control of how your day goes and how much you will accomplish. When the phone rings, ask yourself, “Who is in control here?” Ask the same question when others try to distract you. Also keep in mind, when you want to get away from your desk and take a break, seek out others who are doing the same and talk and socialize with them. Respect the time of others who are working and avoid being the person who interrupts them.

©2002 Carol Halsey

Carol Halsey is Founder and President of Business Organizing Solutions. She is a professional organizer, consultant, speaker, and author of "93 Organizing Tips to Simplify Your Business Life." You can get this booklet and articles, ideas and a free Idea Kit, filled with simple tips for saving time, simply by visiting her web site: Subscribe to her free organizing newsletter, “Organizing Ideas,” sent twice a month.