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Pardon the Interruption: Hot Zones and How they Can Help You Better Manage Your Time

by Dylan McClure | May 24, 2019

“Time Management.” This phrase has been bandied about for years. But what does it mean in today’s rapidly changing world?

It may seem at times as though the modern workplace is designed to keep us from getting actual work done. Yet many of you may feel like you’ve turned into a workaholic. You may feel as though time is slowly but surely disappearing before your very eyes! But what’s consuming your time is “busy work”, which doesn’t allow time for focus and strategy.

Interruptions can take on a multitude of forms; from casual water cooler conversation to the pings and notifications of email.  While these little interruptions may not feel as though they are having an impact at the moment, what they add up to may shock you.

Consider these statistics from Associate Professor Gloria Mark:

  • On average, you are interrupted every three minutes and five seconds.
  • A four- to five-second interruption can triple the error rate of a project.
  • Once you are interrupted, it can take up to 23 minutes to get back to where you left off.

Consider what this means when you receive an email notification. It causes you to lose your train of thought. Thus, you lose not just the time it takes to read it, but the additional time it takes to refocus.

You may not be able to control how often things will “pop up” or “be added to your plate”, but you can control how and when you deal with them. The core concept behind true time management is in learning how to manage yourself. One of the most beneficial ways to do that is to define your Hot Zones.

“Hot Zones” sounds like a tropical island getaway, right? So think of it this way: Hot Zones are the periods of time when you are typically your most energized and productive. This is the “hottest” time of the day for you to do your best!

For most people, this is usually the beginning of the day and just after lunch, but yours may be different. The whole point is that you want to identify them so that you can protect them, nurture them, and use them to your advantage.

During your Hot Zones time, do not schedule meetings. Do not do administrative work. Instead, use these periods for the work that requires deep concentration and focus.

One thing you may find useful is to schedule Hot Zones on your work calendar (Outlook, etc). During this time, avoid responding to emails; ignore the latest office talk, (now that Game of Thrones is over, that’s a lot easier right?!?), and avoid volunteering for anything “extra” at work. Being a “perpetual people pleaser” may be second nature to some, but if you’re barely treading water in your own work, this will inevitably backfire. One helpful phrase to try, when someone asks for your help, is: “Let me see what else is on my plate before I commit to helping since I know this is important to you.”

You must retrain your brain to acknowledge your Hot Zones and use them effectively. Workaholics aren’t heroes. The real heroes are at home and with their loved ones because they figured out a better way to get their work done.

Looking for new ways to get more done with the time you have? Check out our class, Mastering Time Management. Enrollment is open now!


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