By: Dr. Donald E. Wetmore
In a companion piece, I discussed how most people experience a big hole in their workday, losing some 3 hours a day being consumed with interruptions that have “Little” or “No Value” to their productive workday. An interruption is an “unanticipated event”; some are “good,” some are “bad.”
Maybe that number is high for you (or worse, it’s low), but the point is we all surrender valuable time each day to unproductive interruptions.
The solution? “If you want to manage it, you have to measure it.”
I would recommend you run an “Interruptions Log.” Nothing fancy about it. Just take a pad of paper and place “Interruptions Log” across the top then just below, create six columns for: Date, Time, Who, What, Length, and Rating.
Now, during your day, immediately after each interruption occurs, log it in. Record the Date and Time it occurred, Who brought it to you, a word or two about What it dealt with, the Length of time it took, and most important, your Rating of its importance to you (“A” = Crucial, “B” = Important, “C” = Little value, and “D” =No Value).
Plan to record this information for about a week to get a fair measure of what is really happening as a shorter time period may give you a distorted sense of what is happening. (It is a nuisance to log this information in after each interruption, but it does provide valuable information. And, if you wait until the end of the day to fill it out, it probably will not be accurate.)
And be brutally candid as you log in the information, especially the Rating. No one but you has to see it.
After accumulating this data for a week, go back and total up the A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s. Most people will discover that approximately 20% of their interruptions were A’s and B’s, things that were Crucial and Important, and that 80% of their interruptions were C’s and D’s, things that were not worth the time spent.
Finally, go to each C and D interruption and ask yourself, “How could this one have been avoided?” and start to take proactive steps to insure that it will not repeat itself in the future. Do this especially with those who bring you repetitive interruptions.
For example, perhaps someone comes to you two or three times a day asking for information that they could have located on their own, just as easily. Unless there is an intervention on your part, helping this person to find the information for himself or herself, they will continue to interrupt you to get it. It is the path of least resistance. Help them to help themselves, teaching them how to get what they need on their own, freeing your future from having to spend time on what you know will be additional lower valued interruptions from this person.
All C and D interruptions will not be eliminated, but if you can head off, short circuit, and stop just a few and that buys back an extra hour per day, (that’s 250 hours over the next year or the equivalent of over 6 work weeks) then you have carved out some additional time for projects and other responsibilities that are currently being pushed back, thereby reducing some of the stress and frustration in your day.
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Dr. Donald E. Wetmore
Certified Executive Coach, Consultant and Trainer
Author, “Organizing Your Life” and “The Productivity Handbook”
Personal Productivity Solutions to Leverage Your Impact
127 Jefferson St.
Stratford, CT 06615
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