Learn To Value Your Time

Running Productive Meetings

Learn To Value Your Time

Dealing with “Drop In Visitors” – Manage Interruptions

During a recent coaching session, my client shared with me her difficulty in saying NO to drop in visitors or managing interruptions. Some of these visitors were external and some internal to her organisation.

She works in a small office with limited resources. Her role is such that it involves working with quite a diverse range of stakeholders within her community. She has a strong commitment to customer service and is passionate about developing effective working relationships with her client base.

And she is doing very well in this regard and being recognised for it!

So what is the problem I can hear you ask? Her problem is that she is spending so much time dealing with drop in visitors and interrupters; she struggles to find enough time to do some of her other work properly such as writing reports or preparing for important meetings etc. Much of this work has to be done outside of her normal work hours and ultimately impacts on important family time.

As we unpacked and explored this further, it essentially came down to the fact that she valued the time of other “important people” more than she actually valued her own time.

I have found this is a problem that many people struggle with.

Undoubtedly, some interruptions are very worthwhile; equally however, many can be dealt with just as effectively within the confines of a formal and agreed meeting at a mutually beneficial time.

I can almost hear you groan…not more meetings!! But think about it. A short focused meeting with an agreed agenda and purpose has one very important advantage over a drop in meeting. Both parties know in advance what is to be discussed which allows for some preparation and thinking about the topic.

Additionally it also means there is equal respect for both people’s time.

When someone drops in and interrupts you by saying something like; “have you got a minute?”, they are really not valuing your time as much as they are valuing their own time. Naturally, there are times when this is absolutely necessary but often the person is just being opportunistic by “dropping in.” So what to do?

Identify your “Serial Interrupters”

Going back to my client then, I asked her to reflect on whether or not there were serial interrupters? As it turns out, and this is usually the case, there were a few people who continually “dropped in” and almost inevitably overstayed their welcome! This often left my client feeling frustrated by the time being wasted talking about trivial things whilst really important work on her To Do List was being neglected.

Some people just prefer to get work done by dropping in and seeing people. This might be okay sometimes of course, but if it happens continually……You might consider having a strategy in place better manage interruptions and deal with your serial interrupters more effectively when they come knocking. The strategy would be to try and push back a little by refusing to be interrupted right there and then unless the matter is of extreme importance and cannot wait. You should express a desire to happily to meet at some mutually convenient date and time of course. This approach values your time but also equally values the time of the other person by agreeing to meet up when it suits you both.

I have a saying I use in my personal productivity training. Sometimes there is a need to “formalise the informal“.

So next time someone drops into your office or leans over your desk to ask; ”have you got a minute?”. You might respond by saying something like:

“Well I do have a minute but I don’t have 15, so if it is going to take longer than a minute, can we agree to meet up later?” (formalise the informal)

Use your Calendar to book in a meeting. Even 15 minute meetings if necessary. Always agree on a time to meet otherwise it may just seem like you are fobbing someone off. This in effect is not valuing their time.

And don’t forget to send them a meeting invite to confirm it! Better still, ask the person to send you a meeting invite for an agreed time.

I hope you have found this little article useful and I appreciate your comments below.


Geoff Prior

Lingford Consulting – The Productivity Specialists

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