We have too many interruptions at work. I read recently where the average person experiences seven interruptions at work every hour, with the average interruption taking five minutes. If that math holds up, that means we spend 35 minutes out of each hour dealing with interruptions. That’s not a high workplace efficiency ratio.
Here’s the real kicker. Those surveyed said most of the interruptions weren’t important. So not only do we spend most of our time at work chasing the rabbit of interruptions, those same interruptions generally aren’t very important.
How to Get More Work Done
The German tech-consulting company Rheingans Digital Enabler is currently experimenting with a five-hour workday. But here’s the catch. No cellphones allowed and you can only check your email two times each day. The CEO reports that more work gets done in less time and employees get to spend more time doing stuff outside the job that they enjoy.
This is the type of approach that works with time management. This is taking interruptions by the scruff of the neck and kicking them out the door. If only more American companies would do the same. Productivity and employee morale would rise.
We Waste Too Much Time At Work
I recently dropped by a co-workers office about mid-afternoon. He was reading a book. Nothing against reading a book, but at this moment this co-worker wasn’t doing anything productive. I’ve been known to mark time in the office accomplishing absolutely nothing because my employees expect me to “be accessible” to them.
But what about instead of simply being present with an open door, we left the cell-phones in the car, checked our emails only a few times a day and focused on getting really productive. I’m pretty sure that in many jobs, we could get more done in less time with fewer interruptions. Then we could spend the time saved doing something outside the workplace that makes us much better rounded. Like working on a hobby or starting a side business.
Manage Time by Managing Priorities
I’ve quit trying to manage time. And please don’t start about to-do lists. To-do lists are great for organized people. To-do lists are also terribly boring. I’m learning to schedule my priorities each day rather than scheduling my time. Most days, I can handle my key priorities in a few hours.
But the interruptions make handling my priorities much more challenging. That’s because the people interrupting me don’t give a rip about my priorities. One wants to talk about his kid’s t-ball game. Another wants to get the group together for an impromptu meeting to discuss the latest wrinkle in the latest project. Someone from an organization across town texts me a question, expecting an immediate response.
Still, I’ve learned to prioritize one or two things each day and work to accomplish those goals. I haven’t perfected it yet, but I’m getting there. In the meantime, perhaps we should think about that five-hour workday. It’s not feasible for every job or workplace, but we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for striving to be more efficient.