Be proactive in managing your distractions and take control of your time, says Marsha Egan

The days of the occasional interruption are gone. Prior to the invasion of electronic connectedness, less-than-skillful time managers could get away with allowing that every-now-and-then interruption to distract them. Not anymore. We’ve allowed ourselves to be interrupted continually.

  • If you answer your cell phone in the middle of an important conversation, you have allowed that call to trump the relationship.
  • If you look up every time your computer screen flashes the arrival of a new message, you have given that message power over your previously set schedule.
  • If you check a text message in the middle of a meeting, you’ve taken your focus off the meeting and allowed that text higher priority than the discussion at hand.

The time it takes to recover from any interruption averages about 4 minutes. (That does NOT include the time it takes to handle the interruption.) So if you look up at the flash of an incoming email only 15 times in a day, you’ll waste roughly an hour recovering from the interruption. Minimizing interruptions and distractions is an excellent strategy that will enable you to get more done.

The proliferation of potential interruptions has forced us to become proactive about managing all those interruptions so that we can truly focus on the work at hand.

Being proactive about managing your distractions means deciding that you take control of your time. The power has switched. You now have the power to decide when and how you’ll respond to each interruption.

Here are some tips to help you take control of your day:

  • Turn off the distractions. Turn all flashes and dings off. Shut down your inbox. Turn off the cell phone. Shut your door.
  • Group like tasks. Work similar tasks in focused batches – you’ll get more done and discourage distractions.
  • Set a time limit for a task. By challenging yourself to complete the task by a certain time, you’ll wave off distractions and interruptions.
  • Make appointments. Instead of allowing or encouraging people to stop by with their questions, comments, issues, and ideas, encourage them to make appointments with you and each other. This makes managing your day much more effective and allows you to work on what is important.
  • Set specific times to do such tasks as email and making phone calls. Make appointments with yourself and keep them.
  • Cut the distraction short. When you find yourself distracted, pull yourself back. Don’t allow it to continue.
  • Set boundaries about when you will check your smart phone during nonbusiness hours. Value your family time – turn it off when you walk in the door to your home. Leave it in the locker at the golf course. Set a time after which you won’t check it til the next day.

These are just some examples of how you can take control. The key point is that you do need to take control, or distractions will control you.

So, what is your next move?

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Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Nantucket, Massachusetts-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at MarshaEgan.com, where you can also read her ... (Read More)

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