“We’ve read that the typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes, that it takes 15 minutes to recover from each interruption, that interruptions cost the country $12 trillion in lost productivity (the number fluctuates radically). We get it: interruptions are not welcome.”
The goal is to stay focused, right.
But if you’re a project manager, it’s your job to be interrupted! You need to know what’s going on in real time with each of the projects you’re in charge of.
It’s nearly impossible to avoid interruptions, distractions, phone calls, emergent e-mails, and drop-in visits. So how do you make the most out of the time you spend being… well, interrupted?
In our small studio, we’re all project managers to some extent. We develop (and continually evolve) a sort of checks and balances system that helps us keep track of each others work. We want to make sure nothing but our best work goes out the door. That doesn’t mean, though, that the process is always smooth. This article from Workawesome has some insightful ways of handling unscheduled breaks in the day, and actually remembering to follow up later.
We’d like to add a few of our own ideas of how to stay on track throughout the day:
- It’s all about prioritizing. The daily todo list is going to change by the hour, so it’s important to keep the items with the highest level of urgency near the top. Yes, that leaves those same old tasks at the bottom of your list, but that’s when motivation kicks in, and if it means spending an extra 30 minutes online when you can- so be it. Bottom line: it has to get done.
- Schedule a couple hours each day/week that you’re in a meeting- with yourself. This is the time you can get completely lost in your work. Shut the door, close the windows, turn off your e-mail. Setting time aside in smaller increments works well, so potential emergencies aren’t kept waiting too long.
- Start and end your day organizing. The first 30 minutes or so, and the last 30 minutes or so. In the morning, go over your list of things that has to be done today. At the end of the day, make sure you’ve updated it to reflect what’s changed over the last several hours. Stay on top.
- It might sounds oversimplified, but carry around a notebook. Jot down things that are added to your list throughout the day, with notes such as “follow up” or “send e-mail” or “client waiting” or “high priority.” When you get back to your desk, you can refer to your list and update as necessary. It only takes a few seconds to jot a note- and remembering to take action later will be worth those few seconds.
- If you can, have a buddy to help you keep track of the todo list. Going over what needs done in a 15 minute conversation can do wonders to jog the memory, and refresh on details.