It’s crunch time. The pressure is on to hit a critical deadline. Text alerts and phone calls keep going off, your employees keep popping in with “got a quick question for you,” and your email notification doesn’t seem to stop. Sound familiar?
Most executives and business professionals regularly experience the stress of constant interruption in their workday. With mobile and digital technology keeping us virtually connected around the clock, finding the time to focus in today’s fast-paced work environment can seem impossible. In order to better manage your time and cut down on work-related stress, you must forge a strategy for focus.
After talking with industry-leading executives, we have compiled the top five must-have tips to help manage and mitigate unnecessary interruptions to stay more focused and get more done.
Turn Off the Notifications
We have all become a bit Pavlovian in our response to the “ding” of an email or text notification. Many of us stop what we are doing to check an email or text message moments after the alert comes in. And more often than not, the email is not mission critical nor does it merit an immediate response.
Even if you ignore the email or text, the “ding” can distract your mind enough to get you off task and out of focus. When attention to detail matters most, even a small interruption can have a major impact. Set yourself – and your work – up for success by blocking out a chunk of time and simply silencing the alerts.
Regular Meeting Times
As an executive or a manager, a significant part of your job relates to managing staff and making time for your team to support their success. However, you can do this without causing chaos to your own work schedule.
“My team was spread across multiple states and time zones and my time was getting spread very thin with random calls and emails. I was not giving them the best support,” says one manager we talked to with a marketing team of 30 stationed across the U.S.
Her solution? Setting a regular meeting schedule and sticking to it!
“I set a daily meeting for each territory. They each had a dedicated time slot where I could focus on their needs, and I had more time to get the rest of my work done with less stress. Win-win!”
Look for Patterns
At this point in your life, you may have already noticed that each day tends to be lined with small patterns throughout it. Right around 10:00 a.m. team members start appearing after refilling their morning coffee… 11:30 a.m. emails start popping in like crazy… and just when it feels like the day is winding down, 4:00 p.m. “last minute requests” make the final hours of the day feel like crunch time all over again.
If you don’t already know your daily patterns, try to start identifying and tracking when and where they are happening and by whom. These patterns can help you better manage your time, minimize interruptions, and find the ideal “sweet spots” where you can really get things done.
Sometimes, You Have to Say No
As a driven and ambitious executive, you already know what it takes to succeed and the constant willingness to do more. However, in some instances, you do have to recognize the boundaries to get tasks achieved which includes finding the acceptable times to say “no.”
But rejection shouldn’t just shut out your colleagues and team members. If you can’t be interrupted, inform them of so and provide an alternative to help them later.
As one executive states it: “I have an open door policy almost 24/7. When someone needs something, I’m there for them. However, in those rare instances that I can’t be available, I am honest, upfront, and tell them I’m under a tight deadline. But, I always follow up at a later time to ensure their success.”
Let Them Happen
From staff blunders to unexpected work emergencies and even times when your personal life seeps over into work, interruptions are inevitable.
Try to budget a little extra time throughout your daily schedule to allow for those unexpected interruptions. By doing so, you’ll be able to handle and manage unanticipated events or needs and, in the rare case you don’t get an unexpected interruption, you’ll have extra time to check your work, strategize for a new project, or to just take a breath. And, as a busy executive, sometimes finding the time to catch your breath can be priceless.
Many time management experts will tell you that you need to have a healthy work/life balance. In this case, starting with a better work/life integration will help you be a better manager for your team and help you deliver better overall results. At the end of the day, you know your schedule best. Try to find a way to make your day more strategic to minimize daily distractions so you can get the job done right, the first time – and eliminate some work stress.