Last month, I was leading a workshop on managing conflict. One question came up time and time again: “How do I say 'no' so I can get my work done?” As an executive, you’re gifted with a mere 2,400 minutes in each of your working weeks. With streams of emails, onslaughts of meeting requests, floods of distractions, and torrents of impromptu conversations, your time is under constant attack.
When it comes to protecting your time, you must be a ninja in relentlessly safeguarding it. As Thomas Edison once remarked, “Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.”
As a leader, your success depends on your ability to act like a ninja and forcefully protect your time. Office hours can be game-changing in helping you avoid whimsical distractions and impromptu meetings.
The dangers of impromptu meetings
A particularly toxic source of distractions is impromptu meetings. As a leader, your team members and colleagues are frequently vying for your time and attention. But whimsical distractions can quickly gnaw away at your productivity. One study found that 40% of office employees think impromptu meetings are a distraction.
Leverage office hours
Office hours are one of the most effective tactics for reducing the likelihood of impromptu meetings. Office hours typically involve setting aside a dedicated time block once or twice a week when you’ll be available to answer questions, provide feedback, or brainstorm.
Office hours are only effective if you set appropriate expectations. Communicate broadly to all your stakeholders that you’ll be holding office hours. Block off time in your calendar for these sessions. This will help set the expectation that you’re not available around the clock. It will also create a more open and welcoming environment. Perhaps some of your team members were hesitant to bother you outside of dedicated meeting times. Office hours are safe places where all team members are encouraged and welcome to participate.
Take into account remote workers
When deciding on the appropriate times and cadence for your office hours, make sure to consider all your employees, especially remote ones. Make sure you make yourself available to all time zones. Make sure you don’t schedule office hours during particularly busy times of the day or week, such as during company-wide events or meetings.
Consider your peak productivity times
It’s typically best to schedule office hours outside of your peak productivity times. Use your most productive times of the day to do your most intense work. While you need to be present and energized for office hours, they typically require less focus than intensive project work.
Ninjas are masters of disguise. In ancient times, ninjas climbed into trees and camouflaged themselves in the leaves (called tanuki-gakure) or curled into stationary balls to appear like stones (called uzura-gakure). Office hours are the modern form of disguise. They are a polite signal that you want to limit distractions and don’t want to be bothered during specific time periods.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner