Time and productivity columnist for the NZ Herald

Robyn Pearce: The danger-zone of interruptions and how to kill them

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Have you noticed how overloaded you feel when you try to absorb, retain and manage too much information, too many items, too much email? Photo / iStock
Have you noticed how overloaded you feel when you try to absorb, retain and manage too much information, too many items, too much email? Photo / iStock

Did you know that an average knowledge worker will lose a minimum of 28 per cent of their day due to interruptions?

Clutter confuses

Have you noticed how overloaded you feel when you try to absorb, retain and manage too much information, too many items, too much email? They become interruptions to your mental flow.

And what happens to your desk or office if you're trying to keep tabs on too much 'stuff'? Does it become a disaster zone? How effective are you at such times?

Learn to be selective about what you expose yourself to - and what you keep.

A typical clutter-hugger thinks she or he has to keep up with every new advance in their field, keep up with every relevant magazine, attend every conference, hold onto every article (in the often-mistaken belief that they'll go back to it at a later date).

Wrong! With the speed of change and technology, almost anything we need to know is online. And - much of what we've meticulously saved for years is probably obsolete.

Do an audit on yourself: if you're a hoarder of physical paper and equipment, can you find everything instantly when you need it? And if you can, how much time have you invested into managing all that information?

We're not born tidy - most of us have to work at it

Ask anyone with an organised office if it comes naturally to be uncluttered. Most will assure you that it's a conscious decision to stay that way, coupled with good old self-discipline.

Here's the thing:

Every piece of paper, information or equipment lying around is a symptom of a decision not made or an action not completed. (Robyn Pearce)

Work on a need-to-know basis

Try reading only what you need right now. Don't even look at things you've got no current use for. Get ruthless about pushing back on everything else.

Remove yourself from unnecessary subscriptions, ask to be taken off mailing lists you don't now get value from (including e-zine lists and newsgroups). Discard material that in your heart-of-hearts you know you're not going to need again or won't have time to get back to.

Don't major in minor things

Take charge of when you do low-level tasks. Don't let distractions take you away from higher-value priorities. The key is to attend to short-term matters at the next natural break, rather than constantly breaking concentration. Instead, when you finish the priority task you're working on, take a few minutes to check other matters that have arisen since your last break.

Don't let emails dominate your day

Don't keep checking your email throughout the day. Rather, chunk it into 3 or 4 slots - it's one of the worst interruptions in today's business world.

Case Study:

It was 6.30 am on a beautiful salmon-pink morning. I love to write first thing in the morning, and then can happily get on with the rest of my day's work. That morning as I walked into my office there was a small pile of information on my desk from a network function I'd attended the night before.

I could have acted on the pile immediately but chances are, no creative writing would have occurred. That little pile was a distraction hazard.

So I made a choice and placed the little heap of cards and action notes behind me. As I commenced to write, although I knew something was waiting, it was not a distraction because I couldn't see it. A couple of hours later, finally ready to start my regular day's work, the tasks and tidy up were quickly actioned.

What is your highest priority?

Focus on your most important task first thing when you're fresh and don't let your most productive time of day be side-tracked by less important matters.

You'll be amazed how much work you get done and how much less stress you experience. For more help on this topic of interruptions, check the information below.

On Tuesday 2nd August you can catch Robyn at probably her only public event in Auckland for the rest of the year. She's one of three presenters at the Big Thinking Business Forum- Tuesday 2nd August 8.30am - 12.30 at the Quality Inn, Parnell, Auckland. Her topic will be: How to Reduce Interruptions - the biggest stealer of time. Info here.

- NZ Herald

Robyn Pearce (known as the Time Queen) runs an international time management and productivity business, based in New Zealand. If you'd like a conference speaker, time management training for your firm, or to receive your free report 'How To Master Time In Only 90 Seconds' and ongoing time tips, check out gettingagrip.com

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Time and productivity columnist for the NZ Herald

For 22 years author and speaker Robyn Pearce (known by her clients as the Time Queen) has been sharing her experiences and knowledge about time management and productivity with countless clients and readers around the world as a keynote speaker, educator, coach and writer of 8 books and many hundreds of articles. She often appears as a subject specialist on television and radio. Robyn learnt her subject the hard way. Through the years of raising six kids, single parenthood and then a highly successful real estate career, time management was her biggest challenge. The good news is – she won, and now helps others find more time.

Read more by Robyn Pearce

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