Lifestyle Tips: Defend your time at work

While an optimist is someone who believes that today will be better than yesterday, a fantasist is surely someone who believes that today will be better even if she doesn’t make any changes.

Research carried out in California found that the average office worker there gets interrupted every three minutes.

So if you’re feeling deeply disappointed by how little you’ve scored off your to-do list by the end of the day, then you have to make some changes.

Those with their own office can operate an open door policy but make it one hour open, one hour closed, so that you remain approachable but also carve out some time to work.

If you are in an open plan environment, practise some phrases to bounce interrupters back on to their own resources. Remember lots of people don’t need your help, they just need to talk to someone.

Try “sorry, got to finish this. Let’s make a time to talk about this for 10 minutes tomorrow”. Often, they will sort it out themselves or find someone else to help them. And by setting an appointment, you are giving a clear message that there are limits on your time.

What you have to be really careful of is saying, “OK, but I can only give you 10 minutes now.” Putting a time limit on your interruption may feel like you’re retaining control but research has shown that it takes 25 minutes to get back into the flow after an interruption and in 40% of cases, we don’t return to the project we were working on at all. To be effective you need a zero-tolerance policy.

Too brutal? Mull on this: what is the cost of letting the interruptions ruin your working day? Who will be disappointed? Will it be your friend who you won’t be able to meet because you’re too shattered from working late? Or your child because you’re working at the weekend? Thinking of the cost of working to other people’s agenda is powerfully motivating.

Elisabeth Wilson is a counsellor, psychotherapist and author of Stress-proof Your Life (Infinite Ideas, £12.99)


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