Time Management Tips – How to Handle All Those Distractions

Knee_Boo_BooOf course, we all want to keep focused on our work and stay as productive as possible. But we all know that life happens – all the time, every day. So here is a bit of counter-intuitive time management advice – when life does happen, don’t fight it, too much. Working in a home office will many times bring a cut finger that needs attention, or a child home with the chicken pox. Working in an office, last minute challenges will ALWAYS come up. Everyone tells you to put aside the interruptions. But for those distractions that just won’t wait, put the work aside, handle the interruption, and then come back to the project with a clear mind – a mind that can actually focus better because the problem won’t be worrying at you.

“But what about getting stuff done?” you ask. Yes, if you let too many little things distract you, your output will suffer. So let’s look at some time management techniques to keep productivity up, and still deal with life, “As it Happens.”

Make Your Schedule Flexible

Either at the end of the day or the beginning of each day, a good time management technique is to make a good working schedule of what you need to accomplish that day. Assign times and durations for each task. Now the challenge: stick with this schedule as much as possible, but here is where flexibility comes in. We need to be ready to, “step away from the schedule,” if the need arises.

Naturally, this is very hard to do. We always want to get our work done and be productive, but we need the patience and freedom to stop when necessary. As I said, when you get back to the task later, you’ll focus better than if you’d tried to ignore the distraction.

Prioritize… Because Life Does Happen

So what occasionally happens is a task or two that you don’t accomplish. If you have prioritized well, the ones you miss will be ones that can be put off for tomorrow. As I said before, create categories. Things that must be done, things that should be done, and things that might well be put off. Or prioritize tasks that require the most concentration and brainpower up front. Save less demanding tasks for later in the day, or when you might be trying to regain focus after an interruption.

When you have skipped tasks, get them back on the schedule immediately so they don’t get lost – not good for business.

Record the Interruptions

If you keep track of your interruptions – and how long they took to resolve, you will know just how much time gets wasted each day. You don’t need a lot of detail (takes up too much time!), just enough to remind you of what the distraction was. Even if you feel that interruptions are taking too much of your day, you may find that the distraction breaks aren’t as big as you thought. Review your, “interruption log” at the end of the day to see how you might handle some of them more productively.

Budget for Interruptions

Looking at your interruption log leads to a great way to deal with these time wasters. Budget for them! Sneak in an hour of “distraction time” to your schedule. Your eight hour day may become a nine hour day, but if you finish with everything done, you’ve done your job! Now you have time to get stuck in traffic or bandage a boo-boo. Budgeting for interruptions makes them nothing more than simple breaks in your day. And if you have one of those miraculous days with NO interruptions, celebrate your extra family time.

Flexibility is Key. As General – later President Dwight Eisenhower said, “Planning is everything, the plan is nothing.” The act of establishing your plan gives you the flexibility to adjust when distractions and interruptions pull you off plan – and still keep you goals in sight. Your work day will be less stressful for it!

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