It’s important to stay on task and be as productive as possible especially when you work from home, but here’s a bit of advice that goes against common wisdom – when life interrupts your work, let it. Go with the flow and don’t try to fight it. When your kids need you or there’s a sudden household emergency, you’re much better off setting your work aside and coming back to it later.
You’re probably thinking – ‘But what about getting stuff done?’ It’s true that if you let little things distract you from your work, your personal productivity will suffer. But here’s how you strike the right balance between getting things done and getting interrupted.
Your Detailed Schedule
At the start each day write a detailed schedule. Decide exactly how much time you will spend on each task and when you’re going to do it. Try to keep to your schedule but be flexible. Be willing to ditch the schedule when you need to.
Surprisingly, this is actually much harder than creating the schedule and committing to it. While you’re driven to get work done and push yourself to be productive, you also need patience and the willingness to stop when you need to. When you get back to the task later, you’ll have more focus for it than if you’d tried to work through the interruption.
Prioritise in Preparation for Snags
What may happen is that there will be a task or two that you don’t get to. This is why it’s important to prioritise. The best way to do this is to create categories. These categories should be for things that must be done, things that ought to be done, and things that can be left for another day. Another way to prioritise is to start with the tasks that require the most concentration and brainpower. The tasks that don’t require as much can be saved for later in the day when you might be trying to get your focus back after an interruption.
When you do have to skip tasks because of your interruptions, decide when you’re going to finish them. Put them onto another day’s schedule and be realistic about when they’ll get done.
Keep an Interruptions Log
It’s good to keep track of your interruptions. Keeping an interruption log reveals to you exactly how much time is getting wasted. You might feel like your kids are stopping you from working all day long, but if you actually log your interruptions, you’ll see that they’re only taking minutes of your working time.
Write down each interruption and how long it took you to resolve it. There’s no reason to be detailed about it; after all, you don’t want to take up more of your precious work time! Just jot down a quick note and review at the end of the day.
Schedule Your Interruptions
A great way to deal with interruptions is to add an hour of ‘distraction time’ to your day. If you plan to work eight hours today, make it nine. This gives you an hour of leeway for getting stuck in traffic or cleaning up emergency spills. When you have plenty of time set aside in your schedule, your interruptions become nothing more than breaks in your working day.
The important thing is to be flexible. Proper planning is essential, but don’t be overly rigid about it. When you’re inflexible, your distractions only cause you stress. They’re going to happen anyway, so you’re better off not trying to fight them.
Till next Time
The Time Doctor – Mike Gardner