You’ve made good progress on a key task. Then it starts. The phone rings, the emails arrive and there’s someone else at your office door. You already have a list of priorities for the day. What do you do?
We’re all at risk of being derailed by the unexpected. And spending hours of invaluable time on a task that isn’t a priority is a common problem. This is Time Management 101 and I invite you to read on to identify the signs and deal with them appropriately within your business day.
Shifting Priorities – The Costs
Whenever you allow a persuasive interruption to distract you from your planned task, you’re in trouble and you’ll pay for it in terms of lost concentration, reduced productivity and you could even damage your reputation if you fail to deliver on individual tasks because everything becomes ‘urgent’. You’ll be stressed and your general air of flustered disorganisation will impact upon your staff who look to you for a stable and structured environment in order to perform at their best.
How to Avoid Shifting Priorities
Find out as much as you can about the new demand on your time. What does the new task entail? When is it required? Who is the client and what is their value to your business? Aim to distance yourself emotionally when a client insists that their situation is an urgent priority. This is a time for calm objectivity. You need to distinguish between the client’s declared need and genuine need.
Take into account the client in question. You may respond in one way to a high-revenue client you have a long-established relationship with; and in another to a new and demanding client whose focus seems to be getting maximum services at minimum cost. Next, work out where the new task fits on your existing list of priorities. Consider the best person to complete the task – it may not be you.
Above all, communicate clearly with your client. Acknowledge their need and let them know when you are able to complete the task. Further, as it is likely you are being called upon because you are an expert in this area, you may be able to provide professional perspective for your client, take interim action such as seeking an extension of time, and in doing so release the pressure value for everyone.
The Benefits of Taking Control
It’s not possible to avoid urgent tasks but your aim should always be to work proactively on planned tasks, rather than reacting according to the demands of others.
Managing priorities and refusing to allow them to derail your work flow, you will create calm from chaos while setting a great example of leadership for your client and your team.
Setting clear time frames, even if they are urgent, must be realistic in terms of achieving the desired outcome, which is a matter of professional reputation. Better to state your case within a realistic time frame than overpromise an outcome that cannot be achieved and under deliver and break your promise.