Distractions at work are everywhere, and it’s a wonder anything gets done. Some of us get pushed off balance by the slightest interruptions, while others easily tune out distraction. The truth is, nobody is completely attentive to their work 100 percent of the time – and we can all use some guidance on ways to avoid or ignore disruptions in the office.
What can you do to better use your time so that you can accomplish your daily tasks without distractions?
Many years ago Laurie Black, chief of staff for then congresswoman Lynn Schenk told me the congresswoman was frustrated about how fast the day disappeared and she never found time to work on the issues that were so important to her. Laurie’s advice, which I use to this day, was to divide your day into proactive and reactive blocks of time. Morning was reactive and she handled constituent and colleague-related work and the afternoon was devoted solely to issues that Lynn felt strongly about and she could be proactive about. This has worked for me for a long time, and I highly recommend it.
Take the first 30 minutes of every day to plan your day.
Write down what you need to do in a list form. Be sure to list various tasks and responsibilities, such as answering emails, conference calls, and putting out fires. Schedule when they will begin and end.
Schedule appointments with yourself as well and create time blocks for high-priority thoughts, conversations, and actions. Any activity or conversation that’s important to your success should have a time assigned to it. Don’t forget to schedule time for interruptions. Plan time to be pulled away from what you’re doing. Have the discipline to keep these appointments.
Practice not answering the phone just because it’s ringing and answering emails just because they show up.
Schedule a time to answer emails and return phone calls. Use the “do not disturb” feature on your cellphone. This will block calls that interrupt your focus.
Take five minutes before every call and task to decide what result you want to attain. This will help you know what success looks like before you start. And it will also slow down time.
Take five minutes after each call and activity to determine whether your desired result was achieved. If not, what was missing? How do you put what’s missing in your next call or activity? Write it down.
Try wearing headphones to block out noise and give a signal to others you are busy.
Block out other distractions like Facebook and other forms of social media unless you use these tools to generate business.
Learn to say no. Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.
As you complete each item on your list – check it off and write down how much time you spent on each item. You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions. Carry over the items that need to be accomplished the following day. Be mindful that to-do lists get longer and longer to the point where they’re unworkable.
Your Time Belongs to You. Once you’ve come to understand your individual needs for time management you will find yourself in control of your time.
Blair is co-founder of Manpower San Diego and author of “Job Won.”