Time is precious – how do you manage yours?

15 March, 2017

We all know managers get very little uninterrupted time to work on their priority tasks. Between phone calls, information requests, questions from employees and a whole host of things that crop up unexpectedly, when are you supposed to get your work done?

Some interruptions need to be dealt with immediately, but others need to be managed.

Here are three techniques you can use to manage interruptions (or interrupters).

1. Keep an interrupters log. If interruptions consistently rob you of time and energy or if they frequently push you off schedule, it might be time to keep an interrupters log. Once you have recorded the interruptions for a week, sit down and analyse the information. Ask yourself which interruptions are valid and which are not.

You can’t avoid valid interruptions – like urgent questions from your team – but you can schedule them so you still have the time you need to adequately address your daily work. As for interruptions that aren’t valid, you’ll need to find a way to block these out in the future.

2. Analyse and conquer interruptions. If someone could have avoided interrupting you by waiting for a routine meeting – or maybe they should have been able to manage the task themselves – then deal with this politely but assertively.

You can pre-empt many interruptions by holding routine meetings with people – if they’re confident that they’ll have access to you at a defined point in the near future they’ll learn to wait.

However, some interruptions are both urgent and valid. In these situations, you’ll need to be interrupted and you need to deal with the situation.

3. ‘Available’ and ‘unavailable’ time. It’s simple yet effective – let people know when you are available and when you’re not. Make sure people know that during your ‘unavailable time’, they should only interrupt you if they have to.

You and your co-workers can also agree on a signal that everyone in the office can use when unavailable, like turning the nameplate on the door around or simply closing the door. This alleviates interruptions and can avoid hurt feelings.

A word for managers

An important part of your job is to be available to people, to handle urgent issues that arise and to coach your team so that people are as effective as possible. If you put up barriers that are too high, you won't be able to do these jobs. By all means, use ‘unavailable time’, but don't overuse it and make sure people know they can interrupt you if there is a genuine crisis.

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