How to handle drop-in visitors. You’re busy working on an urgent work project that is approaching a deadline, and you suddenly hear, “Do you have a minute?” Have these questions always turned into longer than a minute after you politely said, “Yes?” This is very common and can rob you of your productive time.
Co-workers stopping by your office for that so-called ‘one minute’ of your time can end up depriving you of finishing your task on time. If your entire day is filled with this ‘one minute’ of your time requests, your productivity can decline drastically.
Individuals who ask for a minute of your time can quickly become comfortable in the conversation with you and start discussing other issues not related to the original request of your time.
While there are companies that practice the ‘open-door policy, or you may not be fortunate enough to have an office with a door that can be closed for privacy, it is essential to have time scheduled for un-interruption. This is the only way your prioritized tasks can be completed.
How to handle drop-in visitors
To prevent the wasting of your precious time from unexpected ‘drop-in’ visitors, try using some of the following suggestions:
Think about the office layout
Change the layout of your desk so you are not facing the people traffic outside your office. Any eye contact can lead to uninvited interruptions.
Move any items in your office that need to be frequented by others, such as common files, to a general office area away from your workspace.
Block time to work on your priorities
Each day, block time in your daily schedule for priorities and stick to it as much as possible. Tackle large, important projects or tasks early in the morning before reading e-mail, or any interruptions can occur. Of equal importance is setting quiet time for just you during the day. Avoid eating lunch at your desk, as people will assume you are always available.
Be available at certain times only
Communicate to co-workers that you are not available at a certain time during the morning and will only accept meetings after that time. Schedule time that you are not available, and stick to that schedule. •
If you have your own office, isolate yourself by closing your door. You may even consider putting a “do not disturb” sign on your door. If you don’t have an office, see if you can work in a conference room in private.
If you are able, consider using some workdays to telecommute. You’ll be surprised how much more you can get done at home during uninterrupted time than at work.
Drop the open-door policy
Don’t feel obligated that you have to have an open-door policy. This only gives people the power to manage your time, taking away that power from you. The true meaning of an open-door policy is that you are generally available for communication when your schedule permits. This policy does not mean that you are always available at someone’s request.
Have an assistant intercept all visitors
If you have an assistant, have he or she assist you with managing your time. Set up clear guidelines on when you are available to meet with others, and when you are not. Have your assistant schedule your meetings according to your work calendar.
If there is no escaping dealing with an individual, especially if it is an urgent situation, gather the details of the situation and either handle it immediately or schedule another time during the day for the meeting. Ensure you know have an idea of how much time this will take.
Only accept scheduled interruptions
If someone asks for a moment of your time or if you are free at the moment, ask them to schedule a time to meet with you later in the day.
To avoid continuous interruptions from co-workers, politely ask them to gather all the information they need to talk to you about and schedule a time in the afternoon to review all items at once. This is an excellent time-saver and interruption minimizer.
Be creative in terminating the visit
If people walk into your office and just want to “talk stories,” politely tell them if they can sum up the situation as you have an important task you are working on.
Discourage people from taking a seat
If you have chairs in your office, discourage people from sitting and having long conversations with you by placing items, such as your briefcase on the chairs. Empty chairs are very inviting to some.
If there are individuals that will not take the hint that a meeting has to be scheduled, or that you are busy working on a project, try using some of these tips.
It may come across as being rude, but it is necessary for some drop-in visitors:
- Invent a meeting that you need to leave for.
- Inform the person that you have an important phone call to make regarding an urgent issue. This may bring the ongoing conversation to an end.
- Set a time limit for the conversation. Check the time in an obvious manner, and make sure to say that the time is up and you need to get back to your task.
Mark Woods, author of Attack Your Day! Before It Attacks You: Activities Rule Not the Clock, chooses to use interruptions with a color-coding system. This is used as a guide to deal with the four main types of interruptions in a workplace. The interruptions are coded in red, green, yellow, and grey.
This color system helps you deal with continuous interruptions so you can spend more time being more productive. Question yourself as to what color this is associated with.
- Red – Urgent and important situation. This is something that needs to be handled immediately. This is where you need to stop working on your job and address the urgent problem right away.
- Green – The interruption may not be an emergency, but it is still something that must be acted on promptly and not postponed.
- Yellow – This is an interruption that does not require urgent attention. You need to deal with something, but it can be scheduled for later in the day or the next day.
- Grey – These are the interruptions that are a complete waste of time. The only response this deserves is “no.”
How to handle drop-in visitors. Final thoughts
Ensure that your tactics are not counterproductive to the environment of your organization. You don’t want your benefits to undermine your workplace’s overall feeling and what may be common practice. Sometimes, isolating yourself is necessary; otherwise, you will get no work done. It may frustrate others, but you have to respect your time and your deadlines. It is okay for them to waste their own time, but not yours.