Managing Interruptions and Your Time

According to the great American inventor, Thomas Edison, “Time is really the only capital any human being has, and the one thing he can’t afford to waste.”

The perception of not having enough time for the things we must do or, just as importantly, the things we want to do is a leading cause of stress in society today. Continued exposure to stress can have an adverse effect on a person’s health, both physical and mental.

Because you spend a great deal of your time at work, meeting your employer’s expectations becomes increasingly important. Managing your time effectively, however, is often hampered by interruptions at work. Constant interruptions can significantly hinder effort, curtail creativity and decrease productivity by disrupting thought processes and workflows, causing individuals to lose focus and take longer to complete tasks. A high rate of interruptions can be a serious issue in the workplace and can be a barrier to success.

 

Does This Happen to You?

Think back to your last day at work. I bet it went something like this: You arrive at work, sit down, and slowly begin to get into a groove. You begin working on a business report. After about an hour and a half, you quit to tend to a massage appointment. After the appointment, you return to the report. The phone rings.

A few minutes later, your next client arrives. An hour later, he leaves. The phone rings again. You follow up on any voicemails left during your previous appointment and set up networking engagements. Then, your next client arrives.

A few hours later, it’s past lunch time and you haven’t eaten. You take a break for lunch. When you return, your next client arrives and there are some more messages to return. It seems as if managing your other business tasks will have to wait until later.

Does this sound familiar? If so, you may be experiencing “time stress.”

 

Take Control of Your Time

Learning to manage your time more effectively is the key to reducing stress and being more productive and successful in your job. Here are some helpful strategies for taking control of your time and using it more effectively:

  • Regularly organize and prioritize your work.
  • Assess the types of interruptions you experience most. Are they necessary or not?
  • Distinguish between available time and time that is off-limits.
  • Postpone unnecessary interruptions until you have some available time.
  • Be willing to say “no.” There are only so many hours in a day and only so much you can do with that time.
  • Recognize that some interruptions are unavoidable. When these occur, encourage the interrupter to get to the point quickly. Don’t engage in “small talk.” Establish how much time you have initially, (for example, 10 minutes), and stick to it.

Time management is a journey. By keeping control of your time and managing how it is spent, you may find that you have just a little more to spend.

 

About the Author

Danita Johnson Hughes, Ph.D., is a health care industry executive, public speaker and author of the forthcoming Turnaround. Through her work she inspires people to dream big and understand the role of personal responsibility in personal and professional success. In her first book, Power from Within, she shares her "Power Principles for Success" that helped her overcome meager beginnings and achieve professional, community and personal success. For more information, visit danitajohnsonhughes.com or write to her at danitahughes@edgewatersystems.org.