Focused Hours

Are you frustrated that you can’t get your work finished because of interruptions? Just as you get in a good working zone, a coworker pops in, the phone rings, or your e-mail notifies you of one more message.

I’ve read multiple studies that quantify the effect on your productivity. One study claims that it takes you eight minutes after the interruption is over to get back into a good working zone. Another study says the time to recover is twenty-five minutes. If you add up your daily interruptions, you should find somewhere between thirty and forty. And many more if you treat e-mail like instant messaging.

You need to take some control over your time.

Try using focused hours. Select a few tasks you need to accomplish, especially tasks that will require good focus to do well. Then plot out on your calendar hour-long blocks when you will work on each one. Monday from 2-3 p.m. I’ll work on this task. On Tuesday from 10-11 a.m. I’ll work on this one. Mark yourself busy during these hours.

Come up with an appropriate signal to alert those around you, “I should not be disturbed unless you have an emergency.” The signal could be a closed door. You could make a sign. Make sure the sign is polite, you’re trying to get cooperation. If you work in a cubicle, yellow police caution tape across the cubicle entrance will work.

You need to train people on what constitutes an emergency.

During your focused hour, let your phone calls go to voicemail as if you were in a meeting. Shutdown e-mail.

It’s amazing how much work you can done in a focused, uninterrupted hour!

The benefits of using focused hours are many:

* You get much more work done
* Your work quality improves
* You lower your stress because you know exactly when you’ll work on your important tasks
* You become nicer to your coworkers and staff because their interruptions come at better times

Try it, you’ll like it.

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