» Manage the clock, don’t let it manage you

Manage the clock, don’t let it manage you

March 2, 2009 by Carol Katarsky
Posted in: Best practices, Communication, Hiring & training staff, In this week's e-newsletter, Latest news & views

It’s inevitable: Interruptions from co-workers and outsiders with questions they need answered now. But spending too much time helping them can keep you from doing your real job. Here are four strategies you can use to minimize the time spent on interruptions while still providing everyone with the information they need:

  • Let it ring. Contrary to popular belief, the world won’t end if you let the phone ring. And new e-mail messages will stay in your in-box until you’re ready to read them. You can double your efficiency by checking phone and e-mail messages at set times of the day. The benefit is two-fold: Returning messages in a “batch” makes the process more efficient. Plus, when you can focus on getting payroll or a check run out the door without being a slave to the phone, you’re more accurate and work more quickly.
  • Pick and choose your multi-tasking times. There’s a time and a place for multi-tasking. But studies have shown doing more than one task at a time leads to more errors and can slow you down in some cases. Best bet: Only multi-task on projects where the stakes are low. Checking e-mail while you’re on hold? Efficient. Mailing payments while you try to eat lunch and take in a webinar on garnishments? Asking for trouble.
  • Just say no to chatting. When you’re busy, it’s fine to tell your cubicle-neighbor that now’s not the time to talk about who got voted off of Idol last night. If you feel like it’s rude not to take part, remember: Everyone enjoys a friendly break in the day — but everyone also understands you’re there to work, not to dissect pop culture.
  • Set office hours. If you have a door, use it. There’s no better way to signal that you need some uninterrupted time to work. If you’re in a cubicle or other open office set-up, consider advertising “open office hours.” That’s time you set aside specifically to answer questions, show people which forms they need, etc.
  • What tactics have you used to take more control over your time? Share your ideas in the comments.

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