A PM Minimalist Best Practice: Control your “office hours.”

The fourth part of The Project Management Minimalist is titled “Taking Care of Yourself: Managing Your Priorities, Time, & Energy.” This part of the book is a collection of 14 of my favorite, short-and-sweet “best practices” that can help you  take charge of your priorities, better manage your time, and maintain your energy. After all, project management (even Minimalist PM) can be difficult and stressful. So why not do everything you can to maintain your edge? Below is one of the six best practices from the sub-section Manage Your Time. Enjoy!

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Best Practice: Control your “office hours.”

“Interruption is the enemy of productivity…Those taps on the shoulder and little impromptu get-togethers may seem harmless, but they’re actually corrosive to productivity. Interruption is not collaboration, it’s just interruption. [These] break your work day into a series of ‘work moments.'”
— Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson in Rework: A Better, Easier Way to Succeed in Business

I once worked in a consulting firm that fought against interruptions by applying this procedure for entering another person’s office or workspace:

  1. Knock on the door or cubicle wall and then wait, saying nothing.
  2. Wait for the person you are visiting to either 1) speak to you and welcome you in, or 2) silently hold up a hand as if saying “Stop,” indicating that she is busy.
  3. If you’re welcomed in, then you go ahead and speak, continuing your visit.
  4. If you get the “Stop” signal, then you simply go away without saying a word. The person who gave you this signal is duty-bound to seek you out later, when she is finished with her chore.
  5. Now this may sound overly formal, but it worked great! We were all much more productive (and less irritable from random interruptions) than before this policy was implemented. You might try it in your office.

Here are some other ways you might control your office hours:

  • Set interrupt-free hours versus collaboration hours. For example, establish a policy of no meetings from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every day.
  • Establish “quiet zones” versus interaction zones. For example, you might decide that all individual offices are quiet zones or that a certain cluster of cubicles is a quiet zone. Then designate a specific conference room or office as the place for conversations.
  • Work at home in your “alone zone.” Sometimes it’s simply better to work at home, without distractions. You might set up one or two days a week for this and make it a regular productivity-enhancing practice. (Here’s a bit of related trivia: Most independent consultants I know report that they typically can get 8 hours of “at the office” work done in a mere 5 hours when they work at home, alone and uninterrupted.)

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Interested in more tips to help you achieve your personal best? Below is a list of all the Best Practices from the fourth part of The Project Management Minimalist,“Taking Care of Yourself: Managing Your Priorities, Time, & Energy.” (For a full Table of Contents, some sample pages & a link to a YouTube overview video go to http://michaelgreer.biz/?page_id=636 )

Back to Basics: Manage Your Energy

  • Get enough sleep, rest, and water.
  • Develop positive rituals that run on auto pilot.

Leverage Your Signature Strengths

  • Identify your signature strengths and use them whenever you can.

Manage Your Time

  • Prioritize and just say ―No!
  • Understand & deal with procrastination.
  • Avoid multi-tasking – It‘s not effective.
  • Practice single-mindedly one touching.
  • Do what you need to do to get into flow.
  • Control your office hours.

Understand and Manage Your Stress

  • Meditate & reduce your tolerance to stress.
  • Trust your judgment.
  • Feel your power to choose.
  • Develop an optimistic explanatory style.
  • Consciously choose your attitude.

Posted: May 9th, 2011 under Project Management.
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