Regardless of one's position, most of us are plagued with constant interruptions during our work day. While it's necessary to be responsive to the needs of colleagues and clients, it's also essential to protect your time so you can complete your work. Many women have difficulty setting limits because we're concerned that people won't view us as helpful and supportive. Below are some simple ways to set those limits while still preserving important relationships.
While working on a deadline or project that needs your full attention, try working in a private conference room, the public library, or even at home. Not only will this eliminate interruptions by others, but it will also prevent you from being distracted by other work on your desk.
- Be prepared with a friendly, yet direct, message communicating that you aren't available right now.
Try a statement similar to the following: "I'm happy to help you resolve that client issue, but I'm in the middle of a project at the moment. I will be able to give you my full attention any time after 3pm today. How does that work for you?"
- Establish office hours.
Consider letting colleagues know when you will and will not be available. This can be communicated with a sign outside your door or cubical, or via an email which explains that in an effort to be more efficient, you're setting specific hours each day for questions, etc. Be sure that colleagues know that you are always available for emergencies.
- Allow voice mail to pick up your calls, and disable the alarm that notifies you of new email messages.
Unless your job requires you to be immediately accessible, check and reply to both voice and email messages in batches.
- When trying to refocus after an interruption, ask yourself, "What is the best use of my time right now?"
Inevitably, there will be disruptions to your work, but answering this question will help you get back on track as quickly as possible.
Faun Zarge helps people find solutions for their work-life challenges.
She offers her practical, realistic strategies through a wide variety of highly interactive and engaging seminars. Please feel free to contact Faun directly to discuss how she might help your organization.