No, that's not Halloween season paranoia kicking in: there really are scary creatures haunting your office. Though not as highly publicized as those creepy clowns that may or may not be popping up across the country, productivity vampires are lurking in the shadows of the copy machine just waiting to suck your time, brainpower, and workplace productivity. Beware!
While wooden stakes and garlic are a bit extreme to defend yourself from these often well-meaning vampires, you do need to watch out for their fangs.
Here's how you can tell Count Distract-ulas are coming for you, and how to scare them away.
1. They Don't Have a Clear Ask or Call to Action
This is probably the clearest indication that your upcoming meeting or call will meander, go nowhere, or worse--become an unpaid consulting session! Stake any vampires who want to "pick your brain," by asking them to send a few questions in advance that you can address them in person.
2. They Put "Quick Question" in an Email Subject Line
While it is often quick to ask a question, it is rarely quick to answer that question--at least not as thoroughly as you'd like. Feel free to ignore or archive this email (sales pitches very often begin with this innocuous sounding request) or add this as a new item on your to-do list--right below your other "quick" projects.
3. They Call Your Cell Without Warning
When your cell phone rings unexpectedly during business hours, the person on the other end is usually calling to discuss a pressing problem--one he or she doesn't feel like solving on their own. Let the sun shine this vampire to dust by letting the call go to voicemail, and texting back, "Saw you called! Email me and we can set up a time to talk."
4. They Haven't Done Their Research
Someone is requesting an informational interview, but it's clear that they don't know anything about you or your business. Put a mirror in front of these vampires by asking why they were attracted to your business before filling a precious lunch or coffee meeting slot.
5. They're Heading Out for the Day
Anyone who drops by your desk with their bag on--and starts a conversation--has mentally checked out for the day...even if you still have two hours of work ahead. Indulge them for 30 seconds, then act like an important email has arrived that you have to answer it right away. They'll either move on to their next victim, or move out the door.
6. They Send Epic Length Emails
If an email is about as long as the last Twilight book (and *shudder* about as well written), request the cliff notes. Reply with a single line asking them to hit the highlights on your next call or status meeting.
7. They Ask for Free Work
These are people who want you to supply strategic recommendations for their business, website, or social media feeds--just to get a sense of how you might work together and if you'd be a "good fit" for future business.
Don't get sucked into this vampire's lair: Decline, no matter how promising the client. True professionals respect that excellent partners don't give the goods away for free.
8. They Blow Up Your Messenger
Thanks to instant message, iMessage, GChat, and Slack, your desktop has become an easily accessible water cooler destination for a chatty coworker. Thankfully, you can easily slay this vampire with a "working" away message.
9. They Change the Meeting Time--Again
The contacts/colleagues are all but telling you, "I don't respect your time." Unless it's big client, feel no guilt about phasing these vampires out of your professional life!
10. They Don't Have an Agenda
People who value their own time--and yours!--send an agenda before your call or meeting. Don't hesitate to ask for one, particularly if lots of people are going to be on the phone or in the room. You'll be saving meeting attendees a productivity bloodbath!