How to Escape From Time Vampires

office-vampire.jpgToday being Halloween, it seems appropriate to discuss a topic that's relevant all year-round, but fun to say today: escaping from time vampires. You know; those people who feed off your time and energy, always trying to get more than your better judgment says you should give -- coworkers, clients, or customers who just plain suck the life out of you. They're everywhere. And they're ruthless.

The best way to save yourself is to know your enemy. The Time Tips blog suggests four breeds of vampire, and offers specific stakes to carry for each.

  • "Have you got a minute" Man. He lurks in the shadows -- behind bushes near your car, outside the stall when you're in the restroom -- waiting to attack. When the time is right he swoops in with an innocent, "Can I ask a quick question?" Your answer doesn't matter, and the question's never quick.
The Stake: Offer a specific time with a pre-planned cap. "Let's talk at 4:00. I'll have 15 minutes then to go over all your questions at once." The vampire may not learn right away, but you can train him to bundle his issues if you stick to your guns stake. If you get sucked into a conversation with this person outside the office, try some of these escape ideas.
  • Ms. Meeting. Some people are always in meetings -- sometimes, just to plan other meetings, and other times, to avoid making and taking responsibility for decisions. If you must hold or attend a meeting, there are a few steps you can take to keep the vampires at bay.
The Stake: Plan the meeting either right before lunch or at the end of the day so people won't want to waste time. Circulate a written result-based agenda and specify in advance that you will only discuss the outlined issues. Plan your exit strategy; have someone come get you at a certain time, excuse yourself to take a call, or receive an important email on your blackberry.
  • Mr. Trivial Pursuit. You know, the guy who can't differentiate between no-big-deal and crisis. He has a knack for pulling you away from important tasks to deal with his own minor issues (i.e.: Lumburgh took my red Streamline stapler.)
The Stake: Interrupt the interrupter. Try something like, "I have a lot on my plate today, so I will only be addressing issues that are a nine or ten on a one to ten scale. Everything else must wait until tomorrow. Are you convinced that the issue you'd like to discuss is a nine or a ten?" Once you hear the word "no," leave. Even if you're in office. By tomorrow, he'll likely have forgotten.
  • Soap Opera Star. Everyone knows a drama queen -- someone who turns every little issue into an emotional crisis. You don't compliment her proposal, and she turns into a 3-year who isn't getting enough hugs from Mom. No matter how much you indulge her overwhelming need for reassurance and attention, she will always find a new way to manipulate you into coddling her.
The Stake: Cut to the core of the problem and tell her what to do. This person doesn't want solutions. She wants an acting partner. If you consistently refuse to play along, she will likely look for someone new to drain. Another option is to take over the conversation with a long, boring (drama-free) story. She will most likely start looking for an exit strategy of her own.
(Office Vampire image courtesy of Arc-Light, CC 2.0)