You’ve planned out your day. Your to do list looks pretty manageable. You start to chip away at it, when … your phone rings, you answer it and you end up having a conversation with your supplier about a wonderful new product they are introducing. Ten minutes later, you try to get back to work. Umh, where did I leave off …?? Oh right! And then you get an email from one of your customers. It’s a very important customer, you better answer it right away. So you do. And it’s nothing that requires an answer right away, but since you opened it, you figure, I can do this quickly and I’ll get back to my to do list in five minutes. Alright, you get back to work, when one of your employees pops his head into your office and says he needs you right away to look at something. So you do. But it wasn’t an emergency. End of day comes, and you take stock of the day. Your to do list is nowhere close to being completed. You spent the day wasting time. How to avoid scenarios like these?
- Create “Sacred” Work Time. Find a time of day where you switch off your phone and email, close your office door – while focusing only on what you set out to do that day.
- Manage Your Voicemail. During your “sacred” work time, your voice mail message should say something that communicates to the caller how important your time (and theirs is). So if you are spending your “sacred” time working on your client projects, say so. I don’t know about you, but I hate listening to voicemail, so sometimes my voicemail greeting may sound like this: “Hello and thank you for your call. I am currently focused on a project. If possible, instead of leaving me a voicemail, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day.”
- Manage Your Email. Different people approach this differently. If your policy is to respond to email the same day as you receive it, then you may not need to set an auto-responder. If you only check your email at a certain time of day (ideal) then it may be a good idea to set up an autoresponder to say that: “Thank your for your email. I check my emails between 2 and 4 PM daily. I will get back to you during that time frame.”
- Manage Your Door. You don’t want Bob interrupting you with things that can wait? You want to keep Marion from telling you another joke? Close your door, put up a sign: “I am currently focused on a project. My door will be open again at 11:30 AM. Thank you”. Let your coworkers know that the only time you can be interrupted is if there is a real emergency.
- Manage Expectations. All of the above work, but don’t turn into the office recluse. Set a time in your day to make yourself available to your co-workers or to answer a phone call without letting it to go voicemail. They key is in scheduling and compartmentalizing your day. I personally feel best when I keep to a daily work routine.
Be prepared, however, that even the best planned day will sometimes get out of hand and you’ll just have to be flexible. But like with anything in business, planning is crucial. So plan your day, set limits and see your productivity increase.