An “open-door” policy is excellent for encouraging communication and fostering relationships, but it can slam the door on your personal time management. Whether you work in an office, or a cubicle, you should be able to find some valuable tips to keep the door from slamming on your productivity clock.
Summarizing from the start—learn to say “No!” Your time is important. Defend it! Take control of your time by scheduling interruptions to the greatest extent possible. Plan meetings or prolonged conversations to take place during one particular time, and try to deal with all the issues at once. If your job requires frequent consultations with colleagues, schedule a specific time on your calendar. Let it be known that you’re always available from, for example, 11:00 to 12:00 in the morning or 3:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon.
If you have a “regular” office (with a door), you can still maintain an open-door policy by keeping your door partially open. This generally signals that you are occupied with something important and will discourage some of the “social” visitors.
A technique that works well to shorten the time of the interruption is the appearance of excessive thirst. Always have a coffee or tea cup (or a needs-to-be-refilled water glass) on your desk. When you’ve decided that the interruption has gone on too long, or is no longer productive, pick up the cup, and begin to move toward the door. Your visitor will go with you. Just like magic!
If someone asks, “Have you got a minute?” answer by saying, “Yes, but barely. Is two minutes enough or would you like to schedule a time to discuss this later?” An alternative is: “I’m tied up at the moment. Can you come back at (suggest a specific time) and we can talk about it then?”
If you can, arrange your desk and chair so that you are not facing the casual passerby. If they have to shift around to see you, they might think twice about interrupting you. Also, if possible, try to avoid having a comfortable chair, that is too inviting, right next to your desk. That’s a temptation that’s hard for the casual visitor to resist.
Open communication and contact is important to building great relationships. But your time is also important. Work to make sure that you’re not trading one for the other!