I am currently battling a fly in my office.  It is big and loud and annoying…and it needs to be ousted.  Putting aside the fact that I am not a cold weather person, and I love the fact that our weather is finally warm enough to allow flies….

My fly may be your loud co-worker, your office IM or a lack of clear job expectations/priorities, but we all have minor annoyances that interrupt our productivity or erode our satisfaction with a particular job or team.  But they don’t have to.  With a little planning and a well-aimed fly swatter, many of those minor annoyances can be ousted.

 

Plan for it: 

Let’s face it, in an office setting, interruptions and distractions are inevitable.  Whether it be an unexpected phone call or visitor, a paper jam at the copier or a security update with your computer, these “flies” are simply unavoidable.

The best way to conquer these pesky distractions is to plan for them.  You know they are going to happen, so plan ahead and work them into your daily schedule.  Allow yourself some flexibility in your schedule.  If your schedule is so rigid that you have no wiggle room, the tiniest buzzzzz is bound to throw your entire day off track.

 

Set up regular meeting times:

Many times, a co-worker may interrupt you because they need something from you in order to complete a particular task or they have a question and aren’t sure whom to ask.  Vague instruction, unspecified time management and little accountability, all leads to an inefficient work environment.  Conquer these annoyances by scheduling regular meetings to address these needs and concerns.  To be effective, these meetings should be regular, short (think 15-20 minutes tops), and focused on the current project or task.

 

Avoid Unproductive Meetings:

I hear you mumbling about the suggestion above.  I really do.  It’s the meetings, you want to shout at me, that are interrupting my day.

I get it.  I once had a boss who felt unproductive if we didn’t have a lengthy meeting every few days just to ponder potential upcoming projects and the general state of the world.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid those meetings.  He was the boss after all.  So, I started creating an agenda for him to ensure we made some productive decisions in the midst of the pondering!

When possible, avoid those meetings with no agenda, no hard stop time, and no set objective.  If you can’t avoid them or are the one calling them, don’t arrive unprepared.  Bring an agenda and objective.  And, if all else fails, suggesting a meeting time just before lunch is a great way to ensure you wrap up on time.

 

Be willing to say “no”:

Now there are some unavoidable and important distractions that you should plan for.  However, some are completely avoidable and unimportant, and those are the ones that are under your control to stop.

Learn to say “no.”  Go on…practice it now.

In this environment of constant connectivity, we must diligently protect our work time.  Be willing to tell the person interrupting you that you can address the question at the next meeting or after you complete your current task.  Block “work time” off on your calendar just like you would a client appointment.  Turn off your email (gasp!) for an hour or set your phone to silent.  Learning to say “no” is much easier than dealing with consequences of always saying “yes.”

 

Now, where did I put that fly swatter…

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