The Cost of Not Paying Attention - Interruptions In Your Work Day
Do you ever feel like you could get so much more done if people would just leave you alone? Last Thursday I had 11 interruptions in the first 2 hours I was at work and 43 interruptions by the end of the work day. I wish I could say other days were different, but that was the first day I had tracked it in a while. It is no wonder some days I put in 12-14 hours, and I still don’t get finished with everything. This weekend while I was reading, I stumbled across this interesting statistic: “Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions. Think of it this way. If we really lose almost a third of our workday to distractions, what is the cumulative loss over a career?” That statistic really hit home. Some of my interruptions were truly less than a minute each, while others took up to 30 minutes of my time. A teammate popped in to hand me the latest mail. Someone called to ask me to order them more business cards. Another person just was taking a stretch break and came in because they thought I should take one too. Another colleague popped in to go over edits to a brochure we were updating. A new hire came in seven different times to ask advice. Someone else was using the color printer in my office. Another teammate was having problems editing a PDF document and needed help. And the list goes on, and on. My hunch is, if you’re in an administrative role, you have days like this, too. While some of the interruptions were justified, most were a complete misuse of my time. None of the interruptions were truly urgent, and none focused on allowing me to achieve the project goals I had set to accomplish that day in order to achieve my monthly and quarterly goals. But I had treated them as though they all were equally important. So as everyone left the office at 5 p.m. last Thursday, there I sat yet again, until almost 7 p.m., working to finish my projects, enjoying the peace and solitude of an empty office. Then I had an epiphany. I realized it was my fault I was allowing people to hijack my time. My biggest weakness is not having the ability to say, “No.” Then I read another interesting sentence. “When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to.” So this week I started a brand new system. When I am working on projects that need my undivided attention, I shut my door. On my door is a sign that reads, “Keep calm and do not disturb.” Then I also put up a sign that explains the aforementioned statistic asking my colleagues to help me achieve my goal of not losing 1/3 of the productivity in my day. (Download your own signs below). I also have started scheduling my projects on my calendar, the same as I used to simply schedule meetings. I purposely scheduled an hour lunch, to force me to stop and reevaluate where I’m at for the day, and to open the door to my office to answer the “interruptions” of the day (email, voicemails, and those who just need face-to-face time). Then I scheduled time to meet with those who are most likely to need my help (in my case the marketing team), and I let them know that if it is truly urgent, they can interrupt me when the door is shut. But it had better be urgent. Otherwise, they have been requested to email or txt me, knowing I will get back to them as soon as I’m available. Today is Day 2, but I’ve already accomplished more in the last 24 hours than I accomplished in the last two days of last week. So let’s see how this new system works out. My new philosophy on planning my week, “Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive.”
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Article By: Tina Bell Tina Bell is the Director of Marketing for HealthCARE Express®, where her responsibilities include spearheading the company’s social media and internet strategies, leading the in-house physician recruitment team, and developing aggressive programs to promote patient satisfaction and effective service recovery. Tina speaks nationally at industry conferences including the Medical Practice Association of America and the National Association of Occupational Health Professionals. She is the director of business development for Medical Practice Success and an independent Medical Practice marketing consultant.