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When was the last time you got stuck in a long meeting in which you have been silent for the most part?
Have you ever been in a situation in which a colleague won’t stop talking and you have a lot of work to get done?
Were you ever walking down the corridor at work running to the restroom when someone stopped you and started asking you all kinds of questions?
Been there? We have all been there!! But:“what have you done?” is the question!
Whether we admit it or not, we have hectic jobs! There may be days that are less hectic than the others but definitely there are times in which we can hardly fit our ‘to-do’ list in a nine-hour work day. Interruptions and ad-hoc tasks that hit us during the day are not helping us get what needs to be accomplished half-done by the end of the day! So, how can we approach all these mishaps in a different perspective to be able to overcome a non-productive and heavy work day?
Let’s take this scenario for instance: you got invited to a meeting in which you know you will not be playing a valuable role or any role at all. If that’s the case, talk to the person who has invited you to the meeting and work your way into getting a confirmed agenda for the speakers in the meetings. Given we are still relatively new to the culture of meetings and its preparations, you will most likely get no agenda or a flimsy agenda that does not pin a single task to you. In that case, make a suggestion about an idea or a presentation that you would like to share with the group and confirm that it will be beneficial to all meeting attendees. You will most likely be told that there is really no need to share these thoughts because the meeting is about something else completely! In which case, you can say that you are working on something else that is eating your time (there is always a huge PowerPoint presentation that anyone at any given work day is working on). If your excuse does not work and you still get asked to attend the meeting, you can go but schedule another meeting or a conference call right after the actual time in which this meeting is supposed to end. Given our chatter culture, meetings are usually extended up to an additional hour beyond their actual scheduled end time. So, you can always excuse yourself right after the actual scheduled time for the meeting to catch up with something else.
Now we come to a scenario that occurs more often than not! You are in the middle of a busy work day and then all of a sudden, one of your colleague or your boss walks into your office and starts talking about nothing! Personally, this happens to me a lot! In that case, there are multiple body language signals that you can use carefully and subtly – if you cannot do this either way, you can escape defensive mechanism 1 (body language) and go to defensive mechanism 2 (clear verbal statement). The body language signals you can use are:
Defensive mechanism 1 (body language):
Listen while you look at your computer. This gives an overall feeling that you are busy with an e-mail or a task that is eating your concentration and you cannot talk. A person with average self-consciousness will then ask you if you are busy and in that case you will admit you are and say you would love to resume this conversation at a later time. The important thing is not to commit to a date or a time in which you will resume the conversation so that you do not appear like a culprit when you do not make this promise! Look at your watch and look like you are coming to remember something that needs to be done. Make sure you also leave your office door open so that the person visiting does not feel that this is becoming a closed-room chat and they can stay indefinitely.
Defensive mechanism 2 (clear verbal statement):
Interrupt the person and make a business phone call! And no, this is not rude. This person is not sitting with you based on a scheduled meeting and an agreed upon purpose. So, if you decide to resume your work day and move on with the assignments you need to finish, you are not being rude. You are being professionally accurate. There are always calls that you need to make and it would not hurt to make one at this inconvenient time to show you have other things to finish before you have an availability of free time in which you can listen! And if the person decides to be nice and excuses him/herself from your office, do not object. It is a repetitive behavior of such that will set you as a person that nobody interrupts. If you are always nice, welcoming, friendly and open to conversations at all times, do not complain when your work day is wasted with many things and you cannot start working on your to-do list till the afternoon! There is a very helpful mechanism you can use as well which is a best-seller if the person stays in your office for more than 10 minutes. You can go ahead and say this with a very friendly yet professional tone: “I would really love to stay and chat about this. However, I am really busy working on reports and e-mails. So, how about we make this at the end of the work day when we are both done with what needs to be done?” Keep the smile on your face! You can get away with so many embarrassing statements if you say them with a smile!
The road to success has never been a walk in the park! You are encouraged to make friends at work and be in a working environment that is conducive to the personal aspect of your character. But you do not want this to become an assassination of your professional capabilities because you are giving others more space or time than they should be given in your work day! Remember, being able to escape the interruptions and time wasters like a pro will help you leave work earlier, finish more tasks by the end of your work day and do more activities in the evening.