Last week I wrote about physical clutter, this week it’s about interpersonal time suckers in your life. The force of other people’s priorities into your life to distract you from your true passion. Someone drops by your office just as you are hitting your stride on a project. Your boss voluntolds you for a local board that you really aren’t interested in. The school calls because (according to the rules) your daughter’s skirt is too short and you need to come to the rescue with a potato sack.
Most Human Resource professionals live in a constant state of interruption. Meetings with Human Resource are rarely scheduled. There is normally a fire smoldering (or raging out of control) before someone decides to drop by or pick up the phone – do you have a minute? It’s rarely a minute. It’s the nature of the beast.
Someone else’s failure to plan, schedule or otherwise handle an issue can easily leak into your life and weigh you down. If you want to stay on track to your best work, you need to work on keeping people from treading on you. Don’t be a doormat. Here’s how:
1. No. Set up some boundaries. Let your family, friends, and colleagues know where your limit’s are. Business mentor Christine Kane calls this your “Proactive No”. I’m not available from 9 until 10:30 AM. I only work with charities that are aligned with my goal of helping disadvantaged children. I’m always home on the Sunday to be with my family. I set my schedule according to my son’s wrestling meets. No television or phone calls during dinner. I check email and voice mail on the hour. Draw a line in the sand.
2. Barriers. Shut your door. Put on some headphones. Turn off your phone. Mark out your space. A colleague of mine used to put police tape across his cubicle when he had an important conference call. In the book “18 Minutes” by Peter Bregman, the author has prescribed work hours in his home office and his children know that they may not interrupt for any reason. If the door is shut – don’t interrupt Daddy. Other barriers can be turning off all alerts for phone, email and text. I have a little piece of post it note over the place on my monitor where the little envelope shows up when I have email. Out of sight, out of mind.
3. Cue. When someone comes in asking if you have a minute – give them a cue. Mark out a time limit. I’ve got fifteen minutes. I have a conference call at 2. I’m in the middle of a project but I can give you ten minutes. Give them the parameters before they get started. This will help them hit the highlights before heading down a long meandering tale of whoa. If you find out this is bigger than you thought it would be, you might need to stop and quickly reschedule impending appointments. Being up front will help soften transition back to your own priorities.
4. Delegate. Can someone else do this? Don’t be the hero. You do not need to be responsible for everything that comes across your desk or desk top. I know. It so much easier to just take care of it yourself. Especially if you are impatient like me. You’ve been doing that report for the last 3 years and it only takes you 30 minutes to complete. Training someone else will take at least an hour and they will probably make mistakes the first few times around. Ugh. Invest the time and, in the long run, it will pay off in additional hours to spend on what brings you joy in your life.
5. Gossip. Hanging out at the water cooler isn’t the greatest use of your precious time. Discussing the latest episode of “Modern Family” or who got kicked off of “Top Chef” is usually a procrastination technique. Gossiping about Suzy’s new haircut or Joe’s constant lateness can damage your relationships in the long run. Gee, if Cathy will talk about Joe that way…what is she saying about me behind my back. More mind clutter. Your prefontal cortex doesn’t need to be fed that stuff. Keep the stage clean.
6. Select. Being more selective about who you hang out with can improve your use of time. Hanging out with Debbie Downer or Negative Nancy can suck the time and energy out of you. Being around optimistic folks helps you stay of away from your lizard brain and fueling the flame of fear. Surround yourself with some carefully selected Pollyanna’s and let them lift you up to your best. This is advice that I have given my daughter frequently. When she complains about a “friend” being consistently critical of her actions or associations, I ask – why are you hanging out with this person? What value are they bringing?
Frequently it’s best to back away and seek out those who will help you stay clutter free.
What would you do?