Can you teach productivity? You can add to it; that´s for sure. But can you help your employees improve their productivity skills? One of the biggest productivity culprits is when we´re interrupted. Once you´ve been interrupted, however, it´s up to you to manage (and move on from) that interruption. Some people are really good at moving on: they sort of shift papers around their desks, minimize eye contact with the person who´s doing the interrupting, and some are even well-versed in proven exit (the interrupter) strategies with comments like, "I´d really like to chat, but I´ve got a very tight deadline looming," or "Next time I´ll come visit you-you´re always stopping by to talk . . . "
Still, interruptions are part of the deal. They´re inevitable and depending on the kind of work you do, some are absolutely intrinsic and necessary. But if you don´t learn how to manage those interruptions they can cost time and money. We don´t like hurting people´s feelings; we don´t like it when colleagues walk off in a huff because their feelings are hurt (of course some of us don´t really care, right?); and we fall back on old, old habits of not wanting to cause waves.
Becoming more productive is really more about how one value´s his or her time versus how someone is doing a job. In other words, it has a lot to do with time management. I know I´ve written about this before, but I think it´s worth repeating: it doesn´t matter what kind of time management system you use (or what you ask your employees to use) whether it´s a Franklin Planner, Outlook on the desktop, Palm or whatever. What matters is the value you place on your time. Once you can put a value on your time you´re more likely to use your time as wisely as you can.
I know it´s not as easy as it sounds to duck out of meeting once your presence is no longer necessary. Also, depending on who has interrupted your work, say, a boss, for instance, it´s not necessarily a cinch to lower your head and pretend you can´t hear. The trick is to assert yourself in a way that´s neither overbearing nor defensive. Sometimes all it takes is a kind remark like, "I wish I could listen, but I just don´t have the time. Can we reconnect later today or tomorrow?"
Sometimes it´s difficult to disengage simply because you want to talk. Socializing at work can be a fabulous respite and a wonderful antidote to the stress that can envelope an office. Occasionally, you´ll want to listen so that you can stay in the proverbial loop. But short of hanging a "Do Not Disturb" sign outside your office you need to practice protecting your time. Once you´ve got that under control productivity will in all likelihood increase.
What will you do this week when someone interrupts your work?