Dealing With Interruptions That Throw Your Planned Day Off Track

You’ve followed all the “rules” about planning your day and work hard to keep it on track. But no matter what you do, it seems like every day turns out the same — you’re there for ten hours, gobble down lunch at your desk and complete five (or none!) of the twenty items on your to do list. It can be depressing. In the long term it will wear on you and and make you less effective overall.

A team leader’s job is a tough one.

Not only do you have to get your work done, you have to ensure that your team is on track to achieve its goals. Between task and team member interruptions — not to mention those unexpected calls from the boss — your work day can be a very hectic one.

Before you go any further, take some time to assess what’s going right and what’s going wrong with your day. You can’t fix what you don’t know, so the best thing to do is find out. Here’s how:

  • Track your time for one week. At the end of each day, analyze what happened that day. See if patterns exist around certain times of the day, people or tasks. Make a note of what you discovered.
  • Analyze and compare your notes. What does it tell you? Are there special times of the day you are particularly busy? Certain people that require more of your time than others? Tasks that always take longer than the time you allocated?
  • Adjust your schedule. Set up your day to allow extra unplanned time during the periods you found that were very busy. Allocate more time for the people and tasks that require it.

“Before you go any further, take some time to assess what’s going right and what’s going wrong with your day.”

The key is to modify your schedule according to what’s happening in your day so you can be more productive. Pay close attention to the things that are derailing your schedule and adjust accordingly. It will help your work life be a whole lot more satisfying and less stressful.

What do you think? How do you manage things that derail your day?

Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. Follow her @askteamdoc.

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  • http://twitter.com/EvaRykr Eva Rykr

    Excellent advice Denise! Becoming aware of what you are doing via measuring what is going on is one of the best first steps to behavioral change….

    [Reply]

  • CAB

    Great ideas. I'm a very visual person, so I actually have three colors of folders and I make myself deal with the priority color BEFORE I allow myself to go on to the nice to do/like to do folders. When something new floats into my day, I can quickly assess if it is on the short list by determining the folder it belongs in… Sounds a bit corny but it really works and doesn't allow me to put the tough stuff to the bottom of the pile.

    [Reply]

  • GR

    Both of these suggestions are much better than my disorganized post-it note pseudo color coded system.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.deniseoberry.com deniseoberry

    @Eva — Thank you. Exactly! Until you know where you stand it's tough to figure out what / who is causing the issue so you can correct it.

    @CAB I like the idea of folders. The key is to use a system that will work for you.

    @GR I've been down the post it note route before. At one time my desk was plastered with them — it was a mess!

    If you want to find out where your time is going and what is causing interruptions, you can pick up a copy of my time log at — http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AoaxzKW… — many people have found it helpful in identifying issues.

    [Reply]

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    Just as you set a clear goal, also be prepared to set clear performance standards. Performance standards help define the process that gets your team to the goal. For example, if the goal is 100% customer satisfaction for the month of March

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    The key is to modify your schedule according to what’s happening in your day so you can be more productive. Pay close attention to the things that are derailing your schedule and adjust accordingly. It will help your work life be a whole lot more satisfying and less stressful.

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