Interruptions and Distractions
Authors define interruption as “when an external force, such as phone ringing or a person walking into your office and asking a question, breaks your attention” (Evans, 2008, p.35).
Negative impacts of interruptions and distractions in effective management of time have been mentioned by Green and Skinner (2005), Limoncelli (2006), Butler and Hope (2007), Mancini (2007), Rivera (2007), Tracy (2007), Alexander and Dobson (2008), and Becker and Mustric (2008). It has been also noted that “a distraction takes your attention away from the task in front of you to focus on something else, often something more interesting” (Evans, 2008, p.35).
Green and Skinner (2005) consider the loss of focus to be the greatest disadvantage of interruptions. Limoncelly (2006) defends this viewpoint by confirming that “interruptions are the natural enemy of focus. They steal time from us both directly and indirectly” (Limoncelli, 2006, p.12).
The major interruptions and distractions for successful time management identified during the literature review include phone calls, unexpected visitors, meetings, mail and e-mail, internet and family obligations.
In relation to dealing with phone calls Rivera (2007) recommend using voice mails and setting aside a specific time during the day to return the calls. Rivera (2007) argues that the advantages of such an approach include being more prepared to deal with the caller through having time to think about the issue before returning the call. A more proactive approach is recommended by Becker and Mustric (2008), who recommend setting specific times for during the day for receiving the call as well, and communicating this time to usual contacts.
Tracy (2007), on the other hand, recommends to be avoiding small talks on the phone at the workplace and through remaining focused on the primary reasons of the phone call. Also, the author recommends taking up the habit of standing up when answering the phone, arguing that in this way individuals would be discouraged to have long conversations. Alexander and Dobson (2008) also contribute to this topic by recommending taking required action immediately after the call, without delaying the matter.
Secondary data authors have proposed a range of ways people can deal with interruptions in the workplace. For instance, Simmons (2011) recommends communicating the work schedule to other members of the team. The author recommends “let the people in your work group know that you’ll be off-limits until a certain time” (Simmons, 2011, online).
In terms of dealing with undesired unexpected visitors Brott (2008) recommends to be listening to them briefly for about a minute or two, then standing up, going towards the door and thanking them for coming to the office. Brott (2008) acknowledges that this method might be too rude to be practiced towards specific individuals such as bosses and close friends; however, the author brands the method as a necessary tool to be used in relation to the majority of unexpected visitors in order to safeguard the time for the achievement of personal and professional objectives.
Brott (2008), Downs (2008), Singh (2008) and Yager (2008) specify corporate meetings as another major obstacle for effective time management and the authors offer their recommendations in terms of minimising the negative impacts of this obstacle.
Brott (2008), in particular advises to be seeking information abut the purpose of meeting in advance and to be arriving for the meetings on time. Another point of recommendation offered by Downs (2008) relates to commencing and ending the meetings on time regardless of the extent to which the objectives of the meeting have been achieved. Downs (2008) further clarifies that if the objectives have not been achieved, then another meeting can be scheduled for a later time, however, the author fiercely opposes to the idea of extending the scheduled time of any particular meeting.
Moreover, the importance of agenda for meetings has been stressed by Singh (2008), who argues that agendas for meetings have to be organised in a time-bound manner. Finally, Yager (2008) expresses a viewpoint according to which meetings have not to be scheduled in the first place unless there is urgent need for them.
Mail and E-mail
Another related cause of distractions is specified by Christie (2009) as business and personal e-mails. The author states that installing new e-mail notification either by special sound signal or pop-up notification can be very ineffective approach to time management, because focus will be lost from the immediate task at hand, and regaining the focus back will take specific amount of time.
In relation to this issue Felton and Sims (2009) recommend to adopt a daily routine that involves checking e-mails once or if necessary several times but in a specific time of the day, so that e-mails do not become a source of distractions and interruptions. Walsh (2008) recommends to be dealing with each mail and e-mail only once and to be getting rid of junk mail and other unwanted mail in an instant manner.
According to Silvis (2011) most of the distractions in the modern working environment are directly related to the internet. In the justification of her point the author mentions social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter and specifies these sites to be biggest distractions in the modern workplace.
Fleming (2011) agrees with the above point and formulates recommendations of blocking access to entertainment websites from computers in the workplace. The author provides further recommendations to employees in management positions in terms of applying the same practice in relation to the computers of their subordinates in order to increase the overall level of organisational efficiency.
The discussions related to the role of family obligations in terms of managing time in an effective manner have found their echoes in the works of Green and Skinner (2005), Limoncelli (2006), Alexander and Dobson (2008), and Becker and Mustric (2008). These authors specify work-life balance to be a challenging task to accomplish, nevertheless highly important in terms of living a fulfilled life.
Green and Skinner (2005) recommend organising a master calendar for the family, where each member of the family has to specify their time commitments. Then, the authors argue, important family occasions can be scheduled in a time that would be convenient for each family member.
Procrastination can be explained as “the avoidance of doing a task which needs to be accomplished” (Rivera, 2007, p.47), and the literature review has found procrastination to be one of the biggest challenges in effective management of time.
The most common causes of procrastination have been suggested as poor time management (Brott, 2008, Walsh, 2008), difficulties with concentrating (Dodd and Sundheim, 2011, Fleming, 2011, Silvis, 2011), fear and anxiety (Green and Skinner, 2005, Limoncelli, 2006, Brott, 2008), personal issues (Butler and Hope, 2007, Walsh, 2008) unrealistic expectations (Mancini, 2007, Dodd and Sundheim, 2011), and perfectionism (Green and Skinner, 2005, Rivera, 2007)
Secondary data authors offer strategies for overcoming procrastination. For example, Green and Skinner (2005) recommend trying to understand the reasons for procrastination, as authors believe that understanding the primary reasons for procrastination can help individuals to change their behaviour.
Limoncelli (2006), on the other hand, highlights self-reward to be an effective method in terms of beating procrastination. Namely, Limoncelli (2006) suggests that in order to overcome procrastination big projects are needed to be divided into small parts and the achievement of each part has to be associated with a reward that can be in a various forms.
An alternative approach of dealing with procrastination has been offered by Butler and Hope (2007) as making sure that one is physically prepared to accomplish the task in hand. Butler and Hope (2007) further clarify that the requirements for being physically prepared include having adequate resources to complete the task, creating a personal comfort in terms of light, air circulation and other elements of working conditions.
Another substantial obstruction in the way of effective time management has been identified by Tracy (2007), Zeller (2008), Yager (2008) and others as the practice of multitasking. Tracy (2007) brands multitasking as a deceptive strategy for getting things done by explaining that although an individual engaged in multitasking may seem to be operating in an efficient manner, the time spent for switching between the tasks and regaining the focus results in a waste of considerable amount of time, at the same time as decreasing the quality of each task.
Zeller shares this viewpoint and confirms that “the scientific evidence overwhelmingly suggests that multitasking – switching back and forth between two or more tasks – is an extremely ineffective way to get things done” (Zeller, 2008, p.312).
Dealing with Lateness
Bhugra and Howes (2007) raise the issue of lateness as a significant time management problem and state that lateness may relate to attendance, replying to communications or delivering the work. Walsh (2008) recommends establishing a daily routine in order to able to deal with personal lateness in an effective manner. The author acknowledges that the term ‘routine’ may sound as boring; nevertheless they are effective tools in terms of achieving an increased level of performance in a sustainable manner.
Felton and Sims (2009) shift the attention to the problem of lateness of others, and specify this as another source of obstruction to effective time management. In dealing with this issue Felton and Sims (2009) recommend employees to be always having something to do ready for such occasions i.e. to spend the time of waiting for someone by working on a project, reading an article, mediating etc.
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