Protect Your Time

It was time to work on my two major monthly projects. I had planned to not only process a specific number of invoices that day, but tackle these monstrous spreadsheets and complete all my journal entries before month end.

Knowing full well that checking my email before 9:30 am would derail my plans, I left it closed. However, at 8:40, my curiosity got the better of me, I opened Outlook and had 5 people requesting something from me.

Could it have waited? Absolutely. But, the urgency that I had projected into their requests got the better of me and I spent nearly 6 hours putting out their fires. These people were not my supervisor, manager or their bosses, but I treated the emails as just as important. When I finally got to my spreadsheets, I was only able to do about 30 minutes of what I had planned to do. I could only do 40% of the invoices I had planned to process. When I thought about it, I could have been more strategic and answered those emails in less than an hour AFTER I completed my work.

My co-worker took a different approach to email requests. He had recently been granted the duties of a former employee and inherited a huge amount of backlog. We needed help from him to resolve some issues, so he made a list and prioritized the oldest and biggest issues first. He then emailed us saying that he will systematically work through the list in a particular order due to his added duties. This allowed him time to resolve the issues without being anymore overwhelmed than he already was.

So, I learned my lesson and today, my email was not opened until 9:30. I am now finished with one major project and 60% complete with the other.

There is no need to allow other people to dictate what you do with your time. If you know that a specific task takes priority, inform others that you will get to them after a specific time or when you’ve completed a pressing matter.

Letting other people’s emergencies take priority wastes everyone’s time. Turn off email and other notifications if you have to. Plan your tasks, take intermittent breaks and then help other people. Now, if you have to work with interruptions (customer service), you will have to be a bit more strategic, but the process is still the same: understand the problem and create a plan toward a solution.

What do you do to protect your time?

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