Last Updated Mar 15, 2010 10:05 AM EDT
"What? Just need a second of your time."
"No. Come back when my door is open."
You don't want to interrupt management consultant Peter Bregman when he has his Do Not Disturb sign out. Even if you are his children. "Out" he told his two young daughters as they invaded his home office recently.
"But, we just . . ."Jeez, he IS a jerk, you might be saying. But Bregman is making an important point when it comes to rules. If rules protecting your work time are to work, you have to stick to them. Even when it's very uncomfortable to do so. Otherwise, people will keep breaking them. He writes in his post, The Cardinal Rule of Rules:
"'Out.' I said once more, feeling like a jerk,'" he writes. "I wanted to see them. I even worried for a second that they really needed me. What if one of them was hurt? What if there was a fire in the kitchen? But I didn't look up. My wife was home. If there was a fire, she would put it out."
"Setting a rule and then letting people break it doesn't make them like you, it just makes them ignore you."Bregman points to studies we've chatted about here that show when our work is interrupted, it can take hours to get back on track. That's right, hours. If at all. And the average worker is interrupted numerous times during the day.
If you are suffering Workus Interruptus, however, the first step if NOT to close your door. Rather, it's to figure out why you are being interrupted in the first place. Are you not making yourself available as much as necessary? Are your reports picking up the balls you are constantly dropping? Once these issues are taken care of, don't be bashful about carving out time to focus on your priority work. And don't give in.
How good are you at protecting your time? What strategies do you use to tell people, in essence, buzz off!