“Hey, got a minute?” How many times a day do you hear that? I call these “Got-a-Minute” meetings. If you accept every “Got-a-Minute” meeting you get invited to it’s hard to get anything else done.
No wonder, researchers at the University of CA Irvine found that the typical office worker is interrupted on average every 3 min and it can take 23 minutes to get back to where they left off.
Woah! If you ever feel like you are working harder and longer and getting less and less done this could be why.
You have to get control of your time without appearing unapproachable. That means you can’t sit in your office with your door shut all day or wear headphones to keep people away. Perception is reality.
A better way is to use the Ben Franklin, or the “5 and 10” method. At one time, Ben Franklin was a popular variety store usually found in rural areas. A variety store is also known as a “5 and 10” or “Five and Dime” store. This is a really simple technique that will give you control over your time.
It goes like this… the next time someone stops by and you’re in the middle of something just say, “Give me 5 minutes to finish up what I’m doing and then I can give you 10 minutes of my full attention.” What you’re doing is establishing boundaries.
There are three main benefits to using this method:
- Not every “Got-a-Minute” meeting is that important. It’s okay if people want to stop in and chit chat once in a while but when it becomes a drain on your time you need to limit them. With this method, the people who just want to chat probably won’t come back in five minutes. They will have moved on and found someone else to talk with.
- The people who do have an actual need will come back but they will be more likely to stay on track. While it’s not normally polite to watch the clock when you’re meeting with someone, you have permission to keep time and keep them on track in this case because you told them in advance how much time you had. If you say you only have ten minutes but then let the meeting go on for thirty minutes you are sending a mixed message. If they need more time have them schedule it on your calendar.
- Another benefit of not being too available is that it gives people a chance to figure things out for themselves. Leaders are often too quick to provide an answer but you could actually be depriving people of learning if you respond too fast. That’s a different way of looking at it, isn’t it? Encourage them to see if they can find an answer on their own. If not, you’ll be ready to talk it over when you finish what you’re working on.
If you are going to take control of your time it’s up to you. You can’t just hope that people will see how hard you’re working and leave you alone. If you respect your time other people will too.
There is a balance. Some things do need your immediate attention and you should build time into your schedule to handle drop-ins. But think of how much time you could save if you declined only 2 “Got-a-Minute” meetings a day. You could reclaim nearly one hour of your time, if not more.
As a leader, you are juggling multiple responsibilities and it can feel like you are getting pulled in a million different directions and it can be hard to say no. The more you practice the “5 and 10” method the more comfortable you’ll be with it. When you control your time, instead of reacting to every request you receive, you’ll be able to give your best to others.
Liz Uram helps leaders Communicate Like a Boss for better results, a bigger impact, and more influence. Her 4 books, including Focused Action for BIG Results, are packed full of every day strategies to help leaders improve their effectiveness.