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Time management - Unwanted callers

Unwanted callers

We have all suffered from unwanted callers and dare I say been one our selves on the odd occasion.
The aim is to minimise these without upsetting the person. People are not all the same and what might not affect one person may upset another.

The use of the word, ‘Anyway…’ is a great method for getting back on track.

No assistant

If you believe the answer is going to be brief then answer the question.
If not, try to delay the query until a later time. If necessary fix a date in your diary.
If you think someone else in the organisation can handle it better then pass the question on.
If you cannot deal with the unwanted intrusion by the above then let the caller sort it out for themselves.
This is a form of delegation. Ask the person to come up with ideas and present them or give them the authority to implement their solutions.

Fix a time for the ‘chat’ right at the start to keep the conversation on track.

Other options:

  • If you have to speak to the caller set a time limit.
  • Agree to talk in the other persons office or work area

It is much easier to end the discussion on foreign soil and escape.

  • Conduct the chat while standing up. This makes the caller feel slightly uncomfortable and will tend to reduce the talk time.
  • Remove some seating from your office to help the above.
  • Move your location to a temporary spot where you are less likely to be disturbed.
  • Use the office of a colleague who is absent and then return the favour.
  • Encourage email. Often the information is concise and can be dealt with on batch as part of the ‘telephone call back’ hour.

One little trick is to ask your interrupter to help you with something while they are there.
Why not have a draw that you keep items in for this purpose, for example, items for proof reading, a list of figures for checking, an item on which you would like their opinion etc.

The door

Many people think it is good to be ‘available’. If you flag this with an open door policy then people will drop in when passing.
Close the door. It is good to be ‘accessible’ but not available.
It is fairly easy to put specific notices on your door about your availability.
However, if you work in an open plan environment this is easier said than done.
You could attach a note to your chair or partition where it is easily seen. Or add a symbolic item to your desktop which says ‘unavailable’.
This could be anything at all that you agree with others will symbolise the need for quiet time, for example, a golf ball, an upturned cup, a blue cube etc.

Assistant screening

This is pretty much the same as for telephoning screening.

Deal with it

If the assistant can deal with it then allow them to do so.

Refer to another

If your assistant is aware of the project or circumstances they may be able to refer the matter to a third party.

Make an appointment / postpone

Ask if they would like to make an appointment or phone back later. They will need to ask for details of name, topic, brief summary of the reason for the call and how long it is likely to take.

Put them through to the boss

If all else fails put them through.

It’s a good idea to make yourself available for staff appointments between particular times, agreed with your assistant.
In this way, personnel can book a time to see you to ask about their problem.

The boss

This is always the most difficult.

  • Remember to keep your objectives and task activities for the day visible. This will help you justify any move to say ‘no’ to a task.
  • Make sure you are both clear on your job description and your objectives. If you haven’t got any get them and agree them.
  • You can generate these in line with your own goals but you may need to negotiate with your boss to get them agreed.
    They must be time related and measurable.

Non - PRINCE2 information