Thursday, March 26, 2009

Time Management Series Post (7) How to handle interruptions

As a manager, you often are presented with interruptions that must be addressed immediately (for example, binders for your important meeting did not arrive).

You can often delegate the handling of the interruption. But in the cases where you are the only one who can address the interruption, handle it quickly, so you can return to your priority tasks. Even when handling the interruption takes half the day, focus your energy on the time in the day you have left.

Review the types of interruptions that tend to occur, and try to develop contingency plans. Then authorize others to deal with the problems if they happen again.

You do not always need to be open for visitors. In some cases, you may find it appropriate to refuse to see a visitor without an appointment.

Determine whether your unexpected visitor has an immediate crisis or an issue that has to be dealt with quickly. Schedule another time to meet with the visitor, if possible. (For example, "I think I can help you, but right now I’m in the middle of something. Can we meet after lunch about this?") Refer the unexpected visitor to another appropriate person, if possible. (For example, "I can’t pull away right now, but check with Bob and see if he can help. Let me know what the two of you work out.")

If you must meet with someone, make a note of where you are before you break away from your work. Quickly return to that task after the interruption.

Phone calls can be extremely distracting. You spend time not only in taking the call, but also in taking follow–up action, and then in recapturing your mental position before the interruption.
Some strategies for managing phone calls include the following:

screening telephone calls, using either an assistant or voice mail referring the caller to someone else, where possible keeping the call brief and focused if you must take it (determine the amount of time you want to spend in advance, and do not exceed it).

improving your phone skills to reduce the length of time you need to spend on the phone carving out a block of time in the day when you take phone calls and letting everyone know the schedule working in a room without a phone using e-mail instead of phone calls as much as possible
Try to handle paper only once. Respond to it, file it, pass it along, or toss it out.

For quick responses, communicate in person, by e-mail, or on the telephone. You can also respond directly on the memo you received. Avoid sending back a paper with the comment "let’s discuss." Instead, set up a specific time to meet.

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