You start the day with the best of intentions. You arrive at your desk early. You begin sifting through the dozens (or hundreds) of e-mails that have hit your inbox. At the same time you start crafting your to do list. You open up the report you came in early to work on. Someone else is in early and pops by your office. Suddenly it’s 9 AM and the phone is ringing, e-mails are coming in faster than you can sort, answer and delete them, the meeting madness has begun and your report is left untouched. If this sounds all too familiar it is highly likely that you, like most of us, suffer from IO – Interruption Overload.
Technology which essentially was a human construct designed to give us more time has in many ways had the adverse effect. Technology’s immediacy has conditioned us to believe that we need to be on call and responding 24-7. A CEO told me when he stopped responding to e-mail on the weekends his Senior Managers thanked him profusely – it now gave them permission to do the same and ended an endless loop of back and forths in which nothing firm ever got decided.
Ask yourself this - are you mastering your time or at the whim of everyone’s beck and call?
How can you stop the insanity (or at the very least all of the interruptions)? Consider the following:
Set aside 2 hours each day to work on ‘brain surgery type tasks’ – Some tasks require more focus and effort – like developing a strategy or plan. Book the time in your calendar (a meeting for one) and commit to it and stick with it. Book other opportunities around it.
Manage expectations – Inform your co-workers – up, down and sideways (i.e. your superiors, colleagues and counterparts) that you will be spending this specific time (it is optimal if you can make it the same time each day) to focus on important ‘brain surgery type tasks’ and cannot be interrupted unless the building is on fire (or an equivalent life threatening scenario). And while we are at it make sure you set realistic expectations on what you can accomplish. We often overload ourselves with to do’s and then are disappointed when we don’t achieve them.
Turn it off and tell – Turn off your e-mail, landline and mobile. There’s nothing worse than being mid-sentence and an e-mail pops up at the side of your screen compelling you to answer it. If it is warranted have an auto reply that lets people know you are unavailable and when you will respond (i.e. after 12 noon today).
We all talk about time management when in reality the issue is energy and focus. When we spend our day in a proactive vs. reactive state we feel better, have more energy, are able to focus and get more accomplished which in turn boosts our energy. So consider letting go of your current IO (Interruption Overload) and adopt a new MO (Modus Operandi) to ensure SO (Successful Operations).