Ask sales people and executives what they could use more of and most would simply ask for uninterrupted time. Time to write proposals, create strategy, read important documents, and, God forbid, THINK. The most precious of our talents, our ability to make decisions and choices, is often negatively impacted by the urgency of others. When I ask people what they like about travelling for their jobs, no one says, "The airport food is SOOOO good!" or "It's the luxury of it all..." or "It's relaxing." Instead, the answer that I get is, "I get so much done because I am uninterrupted." Of all of the ways to get time with your own mind and creativity, few are as exhausting and inefficient as travel, yet that is what is most valued. There has to be a better way to get the time needed to meet with one of your best counselors...YOU.
Here are a few recommendations for getting uninterrupted time:
- Go to Your Study Nook--You can't stay uninterrupted if you leave yourself in a high-interruption zone, namely your office or cubicle. Move. When you were in school, you probably found a study nook for when you were preparing a paper or for a test. You need that nook now more than then. Some use a Starbucks or other coffee houses. The only problem is that if you become a regular, then you have a new set of interrupters. The point is, find a place that you can get heads-down work successfully completed and book yourself that time and space. I was an executive for many more years than I was an author or speaker. I found that just closing my door was not enough. I had to leave my office to get this type of work done.
- Change your work hours--If you can, change your work hours to either come in earlier or stay later in periods when the office is much quieter. Plan those slots of time for the heads-down work that you need to complete. Don't book meetings or read your email. This is specific time for a specific purpose, so don't let it get stolen.
- Schedule Production Time--If you do not travel and cannot change your hours or location, book a conference room for a meeting with...YOU. It's time with your documents to read, a whiteboard for process mapping, or a proposal to be written. In any case, you are able to maximize that period by being less available. Conference room doors are often one of the few doors that do not get a knock if it shows "occupied."
- Shut Down--Set yourself up to win. Shut down the digital access. There is no sense in creating the physical and mental space for thought while still allowing ongoing digital interruptions. Email, texting, phone calls, and social media have to be set aside. Even if you are working on your laptop, shut down the feeds of streaming interruptions for that period.
- Travel--I know, I said that it is exhausting and inefficient, and it is. However, it still does afford you good work time if you are thoughtful. Let me recommend that instead of a "to do" list for your travel time, set an appointment schedule. Block out the time on your calendar of what you are going to either think, read, or write about during specific blocks of time. I encourage you to use thirty-minute periods. Don't forget things to read for the ascent, descent, and delays that you know will happen.
Lots of our roles require the interaction with other people. There are some things that you work through best alone. Give yourself the gift of the time and space for that work.