In my last post, I dealt with the issue of procrastination as being the first hurdle in terms of task management. In this second part of the post, we are dealing with all the interruptions that happen to you once you have started on the path to accomplish a task.
Now that you finally have your job started, how do you manage the inevitable interruptions that are keeping you from finishing? To do this, you must take control of your boundaries and space. People have long noticed the difficulty in dealing with interruptions:
“Life is a series of interruptions interrupted by interruptions”
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”
So how do you handle the unending series of interruptions?
First, divide and conquer. Take your day and isolate time to do your most important work – free of interruptions. Make an appointment with yourself in your calendar to work on this project. Change your voice mail message to inform callers that you will be returning calls after a specific time and then stick to your commitment. Then close your door. I have found that people will respect the fact that you have set aside time to accomplish specific tasks provided that you have clearly indicated when you will be available to return calls.
Two, when you do take telephone calls – be all business. Cutting out the unnecessary chatter will free up time for returning more calls in less time.
Three, use e-mail. This avoids telephone tag and forces people to be succinct.
Four, post frequently asked questions on a web page, wiki, extranet, Q&A document or collaborative web page. Let the FAQs speak to your audience so that you are not called upon to answer routine questions over and over – and avoid the interruptions.
Five, work somewhere out of your office if you really have to get something done. It could be in a ‘war room’ in the office or your home or a library. By removing yourself from the sources of interruptions, you craft the space you need to do your important work.
Lastly, and *most* importantly, learn to say “No”. People will continually approach you to take on new tasks ahead of what you currently have to do – to the effect that your existing work load gets further and further behind. Practice saying “no” to the new tasks until your existing work is caught up. “No” is the most important word when it comes to handling your time.
By getting started on your tasks, eliminating interruptions and putting a halt to new work, you will go a long way towards achieving your objectives rather than those of others and no longer feel trapped by your commitments.