Manage Your Time by Setting Limits on Interruptions

Cindy called her husband Danny at work. He was busy but answered. She could tell he was irritated but since he didn’t say anything she went on to tell him about her situation. It wasn’t an emergency or anything, just typical day stuff. But he was only half listening. Frustrated when he had no reply for her, Cindy told him she would talk to him later.

How often does this happen to you? And not just in your personal relationships, but with colleagues or your boss. Often, people are too lenient with interruptions when clearly their mind is elsewhere.

In the example above, it is not that your spouse is not important to you; but when you are intently focused on something else, you disrespect yourself and the other person if you cannot give your full attention.

Better to focus your attention on what you are currently doing, schedule a time for the conversation later, and manage your time and interactions for maximum productivity and communication.

In addition to planning your day and setting priorities, time management really means managing what you are doing in that moment. Whatever you decide is of greatest value or importance in this moment, is what you do. When you allow interruptions, several things happen to decrease your productivity and increase your stress:

  • You don’t get done what you intended. By allowing the interruption, you move onto another topic which leaves your project incomplete. You may not have more time later to complete the project which means you have to schedule it in for another day, throwing off other deadlines for other projects. This can add to feelings of overwhelm with new things being added to your plate without finishing the old. Having unfinished projects is a huge source of stress.
  • If and when you do return, it may take some time to remember where you left off and what your thought stream was at the time. This wastes precious time and energy that could have been better utilized if you had only completed the project when you had started it.
  • You become frustrated by the distraction. This can cause an increase in emotional energy making it difficult for you to focus your attention either on the person or on the project. This not only impacts your stress level but also your relationships.

By taking your time seriously, you begin to set boundaries around your work. Create a healthy environment for getting your work accomplished. This includes having rules around interruptions.

Turn off your phone and email notifier, close your office door, and set up guidelines with your receptionist or assistant – or family – for disrupting you.

When you are engaged in a project, the only thing that should interfere or interrupt is something that is actually of greater value than what you are doing at that moment.

One person’s emergency may not be YOUR emergency so you need to decide that in that moment whether it is of greater value to shift to a new activity or to complete the one you are already working on.

Whatever you decide, you need to communicate this to that person. If you are willing to take a break, let them know how much time you are willing to spend on this new activity. If you are not willing to take the time right now, then schedule time for later or refer them to someone else for assistance.

Communicating is a hallmark for setting boundaries on your time. Don’t assume the person knows what you are working on or what your schedule is or what’s on your plate.

Defining your boundaries can be a challenge if you are accustomed to frequent interruptions and distractions. For many people, however, the difficulty is in speaking up. When you are more concerned about how other people feel or what they think of you, then this can interfere with your productivity and accomplishing your tasks. This is a function of your self-esteem. Learn to identify what works best for you. This is the first step.

Your partner for success,

Coach Julie, RN ~ Nurturing Your Success

PS. Schedule a free 30-minute coaching session today to see if working with a coach would benefit you in achieving your goals!

One Response to “Manage Your Time by Setting Limits on Interruptions”
  1. loren75 says:

    Thanks Julie! In addition to being a coach,you may have ESP. This article is exactly what I needed to read today. Loren

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