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Where to Find More Time to Think

by Jim Martin

How often do you start the day with a well-intentioned to-do list, and end the day asking where the day went? Business owners fragment their attention by wearing many hats. They are interrupted an average of seven times an hour—urgent requests, crises and chattiness. Studies show you need between 10 and 25 minutes to return concentration to the original task. Distractions consume over 2 hours a day. That’s where the day goes! A business owner’s number one productivity wish is to have more uninterrupted time to think and to complete work. You might feel that since interruptions originate with others, they should be the ones to stop them, but you have more control than you think. While you can’t control when others will distract you, you CAN control your response to them.

From now on you can ACT on interruptions. ACT is an acronym for the 3 choices you can make in response to any interruption. They are A: Allow or Accept; C: Cut it off at the Pass or Curtail; and T: Triage. Let’s examine each in detail.

Accept or Allow: If you decide an interruption is as or more important than what you are currently doing, accept or allow it. Give it your full attention. Resolve the issue. But you need to make some thoughtful and strict criteria before you get into any situation. Communicate those criteria to your staff. Choose to accept or allow interruptions only if they meet those criteria. The criteria for allowing an interruption might include: Your client expects real time availability (you know because you’ve asked, not because you assume it). There’s a significant risk to your level of service. An important or income-generating project needs your input to move forward. The interrupter is a mutually supportive friend who generally doesn’t waste your time. There’s a personal or family emergency.

Cut it off at the Pass, or Curtail: Prevention! Make a list of your most frequent sources of interruptions and distractions then problem solve them away. Schedule buffer times each day to answer emails and unexpected requests and to vet new opportunities, rather than interrupting what you are doing. Silence email notifications, ringers, etc. to create uninterrupted work time. Schedule interruptions: have frequent brief check-ins instead of getting calls and emails all day long; hold “office hours” so people know when to contact you or expect a call back; if your direct reports or assistant are the source of interruptions, give them clear guidelines on what matters are appropriate to interrupt you about. Teach them how you think about solving problems, let them know you consider them capable of solving most problems and that you will be evaluating their performance based on how much they take ownership of situations. Assemble a FAQ document with comprehensive answers to frequent questions—and include a reference to it on your voicemail or signature line of your email.

Triage: Allow a brief interaction between you and the interrupter solely to determine how to deal with the interruption. Just like an Emergency Room nurse, pointedly and pleasantly ask a few questions that will clarify the situation and enable you to tell the interrupter your plan for when and how you will respond. The right questions can help you craft a mutually satisfying plan—or even help you determine that you don’t need to get involved at all. Make a list of three to five questions that are relevant for your circumstances. Post them in your office so you can easily refer to them in the heat of the moment.

Regain control of your day and start adding back two more hours of productive time to grow your business!

This information came from FreeEnterprise.com, a great source of free market news and ideas.