Time-eaters and what you can do about them

A INTERRUPTING YOURSELF

In business or in homework, your time gets wasted because you think of something that had slipped your mind, so you drop everything and are off to complete it before you forget it again. What's the solution? There are several things you can do to reduce the amount of time stolen from you by yourself.

Firstly, remember two principles governing time. The Principle of Consolidation states that you get more done if you group like activities and execute them all in one time frame. The reason behind this logic is that the preparation time period occurs once for all the tasks. When you intersperse activities, you are winding up and winding down, reducing your concentration and not functioning at peak mental effectiveness. And so it takes longer to complete each task.

The other law that affects your time is one you've heard for years. 'A stitch in time saves nine'. In other words, if you spend some time in preparation before actually beginning to work on a job, you will be able to work right through and complete it. The total time for the getting ready and the doing will be less than the time you would spend if you just started right in performing the task. If you clear your work area, before beginning an activity, you won't be distracted by some paperwork your eyes fall on as you're on your priority task. So if you want a drink while you work or need to get some supplies or reference material, do so before you actually being working. Once you do start, use conscious self-discipline to stick to it until it's finished. Don't have your time stolen by interrupting yourself.

The second major time-eater occurs when others visit your work area:

B DROP-IN VISITORS

You know the person. Every organization has one or two or three, or maybe you're it. You have just sat down to your desk to tackle your daily tasks and knock, knock 'How's it going?' or they arrive with a fast business question then stay to visit long after.

The solution can be two-pronged -you can discourage the visitors altogether or reduce the length of their stay when they do drop in. To discourage visitors, adopt a closed door policy for at least 1 hour a day. A Quiet Hour. Pick an hour during the day when you feel at your best, or sharpest. It might be from 10.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. or it may be in the afternoon.

The procedure is straightforward, just tell your fellow employees, and those with whom you deal outside the company that you are not available for that specific hour unless it is an emergency.

Then, close your door. Maybe you want to make a sign like they have in hotels to hang over the door knob — DO NOT DISTURB UNTIL 11 A.M. — If you don't have a door, pin a notice on the divider or stand it on the corner of your desk — GONE FISHING UNTIL 4 P.M.

This quiet hour will take a few days or even a week to begin to pay off for you. Once people who work with you get the idea, they will plan to see you before your quiet hour begins or be content to wait until it is over. You will be more and more enthusiastic as well when you realize the amount of work that you will accomplish during this hour.

C TELEPHONE INTERRUPTIONS

No matter what we are doing or what project we are working on, we usually allow the almighty telephone to butt in. Telephone company literature even exhorts us to answer before the third ring. This practice drastically reduces our concentration. How do we control this intruder? Have someone else screen your calls during your quiet hour.