Solutions: Create blocks of time with no calls or visitors. Position your desk away from the door. Set a time limit on meetings. Cue ending (“Before I get back to this project, is there anything else I can help you with?”) Schedule a meeting at a better time. Going to the other person’s office gives you more control over leaving. Stand up to keep meetings short. Find a place where you can work uninterrupted.
Solutions: Focus and follow through. Once a task is begun, momentum can keep you going. With each interruption time is lost. If you must leave a job in the middle, leave it at a point where it will be easy to pick up again. Concentration is the ability to focus our attention on the task at hand. Eliminate all distractions and interruptions as much as possible. Take breaks when fatigue interferes. Turn boring tasks into challenges by setting goals and determining rewards. Vary routine tasks.
Problem: The Telephone
Solutions: Batch phone calls. Call at a time you are likely to catch the person at their desk, but right before lunch or quitting time will keep it quick. Stick to the point. Set a time limit and a timer. Have simple tasks available to work on while on the phone such as clipping articles or scanning catalogs.
Problem: Taking on too many projects
Solution: Learn how to say no.
Problem: Lost papers or items
Solutions: Learn paper management and use organizational tools.
Solutions: Break down large projects into smaller steps. Overcome perfectionism. Overcome inertia by taking baby steps. Have routine opening moves for regular tasks. Apply self-discipline to overcome the tendency to avoid unpleasant tasks. Realize that ignored problems usually do not resolve themselves.
Solutions: Be prepared with paper and pen and reading material. More handy items–envelopes and stamps, highlighter and sticky notes, a calculator. Make lists, review a report, plan.
Problem: Ineffective time use/crisis mode
Solutions: Plan daily, set goals, and assign priorities. Think proactively, anticipating possible problems. Allow for emergencies. Use small chunks of time. Things you can do in five minutes: make an appointment, water plants, write a short note. In ten minutes: sort mail, scan an article, straighten your desk, make a brief phone call, clean out a file.
Solutions: Delegation. Utilize peak time. Take breaks and time for self, balancing work and play. Make conscious decisions about the best use of your time.
Problem: Re-inventing the wheel
Solutions: Use checklists for repeating tasks, an outline of the steps that need to be accomplished. Set up a tickler system for follow-up.