It is critical for us as leaders of all sorts to become efficient managers of our time. Without this skill, we become ineffective and fail to achieve the potential God has placed in us. At the same time, there are crippling dangers ahead when we focus too much on maximizing our productivity. When we see the people around us as interruptions or distractions from our “important” work, we lose our influence and therefore our impact.
In my last post, I discussed the dangers of over-managing our time as leaders. You really should go back and read that post HERE before going any further in this one! Now that you have done that, here are the 5 steps I promised you in that post.
Step #1 – Determine Your Why
Unless you start with this first step, you will not accomplish the balance you seek. If it is not clear to you why you are preparing for and allowing these “interruptions”, then you will not do what is necessary to make it happen. You will continue to struggle and react in ways that keep you from the eternal impact God desires from you.
For me, I see my job description as “multiply silhouettes”. I believe God has put me here to point others toward Him whenever I can and to teach others how to do the same – multiplying the impact! When I look up to see someone sticking their head in my office, I must choose how I view them. Seeing them as an interruption will result in a predictably negative reaction. Seeing them as another opportunity to point someone to God will allow me to respond in a way that makes that possible.
Step #2 – Change Your Expectations
If you think about it, ALL frustration comes from missed expectations. You expected to be on time to a meeting, but traffic is worse than normal. You expected your steak to taste great, but it is overdone. You expected a nice quiet evening at home, but the neighbor’s dog gets spooked…and barks relentlessly for an hour!
No matter the situation, we get frustrated (and react accordingly) when our expectations are missed. If you expect to work in your office for any number of hours without interruption, you are setting yourself up for frustration and the predictable reaction. If, on the other hand, you change how you view interruptions and begin to expect (or even WELCOME) them, then you will eliminate the typical frustration. You will begin to respond to these “interruptions” as part of your plan for the day!
Step #3 – Build In Margin
None of the advice I give will do you any good if your schedule remains jam packed! If you do not have any margin in your schedule, there will not be any time for interruptions. Even if you initially change your attitude toward them, it will eventually deteriorate back to current state.
To avoid this, you must begin building margin into your schedule. There are many tricks to doing so, but the bottom line is that you must have time that is not scheduled for anything else. I build blocks of time into my schedule that I call MBWA (Management By Walking Around).
Sometimes this time is spent intentionally walking around, seeking the very conversations we are discussing here. Other times, that block is “eaten up” by other work because I accepted an “interruption” earlier in the day. You can determine your own method for adding margin, but most often it will include saying “no” or “later” to other stuff. Prioritize and make sure to remain focused on Step #1 above!
Step #4 – Respond Immediately (as possible)
Before you go overboard, I am not recommending that you always stop whatever you are doing for any and every interruption. That will lead to insanity! No, you cannot be expected to step away from your work at any time for even the simplest of requests. There has to be some wisdom applied here.
My suggestion is that you quickly determine the need of the individual that has “interrupted” your work flow. If critical (to them), then it is likely something you need to stop and discuss. If it is something they want to “run by you,” then ask if you can schedule a time in the next hour or two for that discussion. Whatever the situation, quickly assess the need and respond accordingly. Don’t put it off too long and make sure to be available when you said you would be.
Step #5 – Review & Adjust As You Go
Once you begin working on this idea, you will find some methods that work and some that do not. You will find that there are some times when you are more prepared to be interrupted and other times when any distraction kills your momentum. The key is to pay attention to what is working and what is not. Depending on your particular situation, you have to adapt if you are going to remain approachable.
For me, I found that I had to do certain work without any interruption or I would never get it done. For those times, I often work in another location – one that is not where anyone would expect to find me! Other times, I close my blinds and let those outside my office know only to interrupt me in an emergency. I try to keep these times to a minimum, but without them, I would not get the tough work done.
The bottom line is this – we are Christian business leaders and we do not have the luxury of working in a vacuum. We are LEADERS, which means we are to lead people. We cannot do this without interaction. We cannot impact others for eternity if we do not spend any time in conversation with them.
Our work is important, to the degree that it helps us accomplish our overall purpose – bringing glory to God. If we are not focused on this purpose, we are missing the whole point! Take some time today and see how these 5 steps can help you point others toward God.
Photo by Gearstd / iStock