One of the biggest time wasters is being constantly interrupted by emergencies that turn out not to be emergencies at all. Even worse is not getting interrupted by someone when there was a genuine emergency that you could have done damage control on or, if informed early enough, prevented.
In this article I will show you how to prioritize, communicate and manage so-called emergencies so you can start taking back control of your time and managing your desk more effectively.
First, make a list of the problems that people have come to you with in the past.
1. A supplier will be late with a part
2. A team member has an unexpected problem with a task that could affect deadline
3. Someone was injured in the workplace
4. Someone has reported being sexually harassed
5. There is a problem with a piece of equipment that doesn't affect safety
6. An employee needs clarification on how to do an ongoing task
7. A worthwhile charity requests the use of one of your pieces of equipment
And so on. Then create a class or standard for prioritizing.
SOP (standard operating procedure)
In a Perfect World
Then place each of the issues into a category. In this list a workplace injury or a sexual harassment complaint would be an emergency. A supplier being late with a part could be an emergency, urgent, important or SOP, depending on the deadline and how important the part is. An employee needing clarification with an ongoing task would be SOP. A problem with a piece of equipment would be SOP or important. A worthwhile charity could be classed as Important or In a Perfect World-only your strategic plan would give you guidance.
Publish your list with guidelines on how to communicate and handle each type of issue.
Emergency-Knock on the door, call or interrupt, text and email, track you down
Urgent-Qualify sense of urgency and then call, stop by or email depending.
Important-Qualify level and then communicate through channels
SOP-Email or set up a coaching session
In a Perfect World-file to review during corporate citizenship meeting
Next: When interrupted ask-"As we have defined issues is this an Emergency, Urgent, Important, SOP or In A Perfect World?" If it is an emergency-respond immediately. If Urgent ask-"Is this something than can wait until this afternoon or will it affect our customers if it isn't taken care of this morning? If Important-"Is this something that will hurt our relationship with our clients if we wait until our meeting in two days or do our we need to deal with it before then?" If SOP-"Can this wait until our training session or is the ROI enough to warrant a more immediate coaching session? If In a Perfect World- "Is this important enough to bring up at our corporate citizenship meeting?"
Like most process improvements it will take more work now to make a better world tomorrow. Very quickly you will find that you and your team will come into agreement on how to handle issues. Soon after this you will find yourself being interrupted much less often, and even more important, you will be called in on genuine emergencies quickly enough to make a difference.
1. Establish a class of importance for issues such as Emergency, Urgent, Important, SOP and In a Perfect World.
2. Establish a list of which issue goes where on your priority list.
3. Create qualifying questions.
4. Establish how and when to communicate each class of priority.
5. Enjoy greater efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace.
6. Have more time to work on things that matter
John Cameron is a consultant, speaker and trainer who delivers keynote addresses, workshops and webinars that help teams work better together, bosses become better bosses and project managers and project team members hit deadlines and budgets.