There are many things we can count on while working. One of them is interruptions. You cant just wish these distractions away, but you can set some barriers. One way I prefer is to set a daily appointment with myself. This is the time I allocate to focus on a few key items. The subject matter and time duration vary, but the ground rules are constant.
- The time is blocked off on my calendar
- All phone calls go to voicemail
- My email application is closed
- Instant Messenger is off
- My door is closed
- I set an alarm to end the appointment
These are actually pretty simple rules. The hardest one is probably convincing you to make the appointment. Some people find it silly while others call it selfish. A few go halfway and believe they'll remember or can fit this time in anywhere during the day. Well, I cant so I need technology to assist me.
I prefer to enter an appointment for myself in Outlook for mid-morning. If I happen to be in an office setting where my calendar is public, I might reference a project or use the Private checkbox. The problem Ive experienced is some people think if the time is not allocated for a real meeting, its fair game for their use.
You ll notice that I don't have a rule for when to have my meeting and for how long. This is where I allow myself to be flexible. Ideally, I like this quiet time to be when I'm at my peak, but not thinking too much about other matters. For example, I like the time after Ive read and answered the first batch of emails.
I also prefer the morning to afternoon as it increases my chances of getting my time in. Some interruptions have lingering and cumulative effects that encroach on my time. The result is it can be harder to catch up and I might feel compelled to give up my appointment. In contrast, I know people who say interruptions always occur and do their appointment as the last item before going home. Its their way of bringing the day back into balance.
The nice thing about this appointment is that you can renegotiate with yourself if you need to give up a time slot. You simply find another time period for that day. And yes, in some cases I miss a daily appointment as some urgent and important matter took precedence and priority.
The other aspect people wrestle with is what to do during this time period. I prefer to either write or plan. I intentionally avoid going online unless I have a series of directed questions I need to research for an article. As disciplined as some people believe I am, I'm not. I can hop to one web page and 10 minutes later I have a half dozen Firefox browser tabs open. This is my version of 6 degrees of separation or my small world browser problem in case you need labels.
The other condition I set is time. While it would be ideal if I could allocate the entire day in this fashion, its not realistic. I need to participate in meetings, conference calls and other discussions. Minimally, I set 30 minutes with the average being an hour. On rare occasions I have gone 90 minutes, but I find its tough. Perhaps, its a mental limitation but after 90 minutes, my mind starts looking for distractions.
Last Updated (Friday, 18 August 2006 18:22)