3 steps to managing expectations, mitigating interruptions and doing your best work

Tired of not being able to work at work because of interruptions? Here’s how you can change things:

1. Earn the right to work from home at least once a week, or start doing so right away if possible. If you’re a knowledge worker and you have even the most basic understanding of technology, there’s a strong case to be made for working from home on meeting-less days. (And if you have no meeting-less days in your week, then that’s an even bigger problem.)

2. On the days you work from home, be hyper-accessible to your coworkers. Answer emails within minutes if not seconds. Answer your phone on the first ring. Close loops. Start early (around the time you’d normally schlep off to work in your car) and stay late (around the time you’d normally trudge up the driveway after another unproductive day).

3. On the days when you’re in the office, be strategically inaccessible (to your coworkers, not your clients, of course) for up to a couple hours at a time. Not to the point of slowing down priority projects, but just enough that you start to get back the time and space you need to do your best work. Keep an eye on things so that you don’t miss anything important, but don’t give into the temptation to treat everything with the same level of urgency. Let calls go to voicemail. Resist the urge to answer every email as it comes in. Close your door. Schedule meetings out of the office. Go to lunch.

Again, the idea here isn’t to be an obstacle, or to be obstinate for the sake of being obstinate. Instead, it’s about conditioning your audience to realize that you don’t have to be in the same building in order to work together, and that being in the same building every day may actually lead to less productivity, not more. It will also serve as a reminder to those around you that if everything is a priority, then nothing’s a priority.

If you don’t protect your time, you’ll never do your best work, the work that requires momentum and clarity of thought. And if you don’t protect your time, no one else will do it for you.

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