Time Management At Work
5 Free Tips for Minimising Interruptions

Sometimes time management at work really means minimising the interruptions. Whether you work in an office or work at home, it's all the same. Being interrupted while you are trying to focus can really break your train of thought. Every time this happens it takes at least 5 minutes after the disturbance to get back into what you are doing.

Since I already know that I work best in the morning (that's when my energy levels are at the highest) I hated being disturbed first thing. In the mornings I just wanted to work and if I had to deal with the interruption (email, colleague, phone) it took my time up and then I had to collect my thoughts and get my mind back on task before I could continue working.

I worked with a manager and a team who really focused on minimising interruptions for each other. This didn't stop the wider work colleagues from disturbing us so a frequent topic in our team meetings was how to achieve time management at work. We would brainstorm and share methods for minimising the disturbances both from each other and by other people. That's where these 5 free tips for minimising interruptions come from.

Tip #1 Have Email Open to Calendar

First thing in the morning, when you slide under your desk with a coffee in hand what's the first thing you do? I used to read my emails - most people probably do, however one of the best tips to achieve time management at work is to change this action.

When you boot up your computer and open your email have the program open directly to schedule and day planner instead of the default which is mail. Doing this means that first thing in the morning, I can see at a glance my day (meetings/catchups etc) and work that I want to accomplish.

It also means that I'm not delayed or interrupted by answering those emails that came in overnight.

Tip #2 Batch Emails

Batching emails means turning off that annoying sound and popup (you know, it's the one that tells you that you have new mail) and checking your email at a set interval (every 2 hours) or at a set time.

I always found it best to check my emails after 2 hours. Why? Well, I find emails really interrupt my train of thought and cause me to lose focus. Once I've lost focus it takes me a couple of minutes to regroup my thoughts and to me, this is precious time wasted.

Oh and by the way, I have exceptions to this. I have a rule that says "if an email is from the CEO and it's directed at me (i.e not a cc)" then the popup and alert sounds. That's the great thing about electronic mail - it can be customised with rules that suit you and help you with time management at work.

Tip #3 Switch Phone to Voicemail

Although I find that email is by far the most interruptive, another tip for achieving time management at work is to switch the phone to voicemail (with a message saying that you return phone calls every 2 hours).

It's a matter of training people not to expect you to be available to answer queries whenever they want to ask them.

It's particularly important if you work at home because you will probably be dealing with lots of personal or even telemarketing calls. If you're lucky enough to have someone vetting your calls then get him/her to advise callers of the time you return calls.

Obviously if the CEO is calling (or someone equally important) then you might want to figure out a way to take their calls (called id maybe?).

Tip #4 Remove Visitors Chairs

We worked in an open plan office which is very typical of the style of office that people work in nowdays. When we first moved into our cubicles each of my teammates had visitors chairs near our desks.

Not surprisingly, the visitors chair just invited people to swing by and sit down and have a cosy chat - it didn't matter whether it was work related or not!

Once my team members and I agreed to remove our visitors chairs we found that not only did our chatty drop in visitors reduce but that also our work visitors - those who were there to legitimately ask us a question actually spent less time doing so.

This was proof that time management at work was achievable - you can't imagine how much more focused we were without the drop by visitors.

Tip #5 Do Not Disturb Signal

Although I generally enjoyed working in an open plan office, the main downside was not being able to shut myself away if I really needed to get my work done. Yes, my visitor numbers had decreased but I did still have alot of people needing to ask me questions or get my opinion on something. For the times when it was vital that I work in peace I let people know.

How did I let people know? Well, I used the modern day equivalent of a "do not disturb" sign - I put my headphones on. I actually very rarely listened to music while I was working with my headphones, they were used as a prop.

Having headphones on says to someone that you don't want to be disturbed, and if you pretend not to hear them when they quietly call out to you then they will usually go away.

Of course if you don't think headphones will suit you then you could always make up an actual sign on a piece of paper. I read of one woman who was writing a book during her lunch hours and in order to have the time to do this she put up a sign saying "Do not disturb - genius book writer at work!"

I hope you enjoyed my 5 tips for time management at work! I work at home now and I still keep to these tips since I find them so useful.

As I've said before, you need to find out what works well for you. Pick a Gem, apply it to your work life and see how it goes. If you like it, return here and try another Gem!

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