How often do you hear that innocent little request throughout your day? Depending on who you are your reaction will be very different. If you’re a people person you’ll welcome the interruption and be more than willing to put everything else aside to focus on the other person. If you’re a task person you’ll be annoyed by this intruder and would love to snap, “no”, but etiquette keeps you from doing so. These are the extremes and you may fall somewhere in the middle, but generally at different times and under certain circumstances you’ve probably been at one of those extremes. So how should you respond to such an innocent request?

If you want to improve your time management you have to be prepared to deal with these interruptions in a productive manner. It begins with knowing what’s important and focusing on that first. What’s the most important thing for you to accomplish today and what’s the most important thing right now. In most cases you know the requestor well enough to know if a moment is truly a quick interaction or if a moment is a two hour event. Using that background information in conjunction with your focus on what’s important right now you can determine if you should fulfill the request now, or ask to set aside time later.

Don’t use time management as an excuse to be rude, but do use it as a way to increase your productivity and the productivity of those around you. Be respectful and kind to the other person, but hold your ground. If based on your assessment of where your focus needs to be; now isn’t the time to honor the request just let the other person know that while you’re anxious to honor their request you just can’t do it now, but that you’d like to schedule a time later so you can devote your full attention to their needs. When you start doing this you’ll be surprised how often you’ll find the other person will respond that their request really isn’t a big deal and there really isn’t a need to schedule a time later; just reinforcing the request was a time waster rather than anything productive.

Train those around you to have better time management skills. In the world of work it’s your job to train your interrupters to be less needy. Some people think that coming to you with every little thing represents their commitment to you and their respect for your knowledge. While this may be gratifying to your ego it doesn’t help the other person to develop and reach their potential. When you meet at the agreed upon time to handle their request think of ways to help them to resolve this on their own next time. That way they’re growing and developing, and you can increase your own personal productivity so you have time to grow and develop yourself.

Time management isn’t all about work. When it’s play time play, when it’s work time work, but realize that multi-tasking is a myth that just means you take more time doing everything than you would if you just focused on one thing. Identify what’s most important and focus on that so you can get your productive work done faster and have time for play.

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