Being a small business, there is that balance during the day of taking phone calls, unexpected visits from prospective clients and the odd cry for help from a client that needs you to 'pull a rabbit out of a hat'.
The only thing that is certain about all these interruptions is that your day can become less productive and with that lack of productivity comes frustration, looming deadlines and a longer days.
The main culprit is the office and mobile phone. Others can be everything from emails to work colleagues.
It is a delicate balancing act to get it right. Monday is the worst day in my week, Friday is the best. Why? I have no idea other than the fact that Friday is the end of the work week for most, and whatever the client needs to know, can usually wait till Monday.
Will not be answered!
So what do we do as a service supplier? After all it could be argued that supplying a service involves answering the phone.
For some time now, I have joined the business community that don't answer 'blocked numbers' on my mobile. I let these go to message bank, no exceptions.
On the few occasions I have answered the 'blocked call' it is amazing how many are trying to sell me gold, betting scams, american dollars and everything in between. These are the top of the time wasters list.
The next time wasters are usually the 'Tyre kickers'. You work out pretty quickly by the tone of the conversation that they have no idea of the costs for the design they have dreamed up in their head. As an example, I spent 20 minutes on the phone the other day with a gentleman that had just purchased a new European import.
He started the call asking me to confirm that I used 3M, was I familiar with the 3M product, would I supply 3M products etc. After assuring him I am a predominantly 3M shop, I asked who referred him to us. His reply? "I got your name from 3M". I thought for a moment that it was a setup.
I just looked to the sky wondering 'why me'. I cut to the chase and asked him what he was after.
He wanted, he said, a 'rough wont-hold-you-to-it' quote on a full matte wrap of his European 4x4. Never having done that model before, I was a bit vague but gave him a price between $3500 and $4500. His response? "Blimey, that's about twice as much as I was expecting", then promptly hung up. It was 20 minutes wasted.
I'm a small business operator, and my time is as valuable as the next company director. But what options do I have to stop these interruptions?
I've already been lectured by some quarters for not answering blocked calls on my mobile. My answer is well rehearsed. If it is important, they will leave a message. Amazing how many calls I get with very few messages when it diverts.
Then of course we get the client that has a pretty free day, no hurry to get back to his office, so he stops and uses that extra time to have a chat.
Therein lies my problem. I love a chat too. So before you know it, 30 minutes have passed just talking about the weekend, or the recent holiday.
So what do we do?
I knew an office manager years ago that had the maintenance man at work come in and cut 2 inches off the legs of his visitor's chair. It was rather devious. No one understood why that particular chair was uncomfortable, but it worked a treat. People couldn't get comfortable so they didn't hang around. Genius.
Then of course you could take a leaf out of the local shopping centre. To stop teenagers congregating at the exits, they play classical music through the sound system. That has also proved very successful. The reverse is used in women's fashion shops. They play music that women actually like to hear, so they stay longer and presumably buy more. Works for the women in my life anyway.
Alexandra Cain, in her article 'Stop interrupting me!, relates the experience of Norman Ohl. He installed a parking meter at his office door and he wouldn't discuss anything until money was put in the meter. The time limit was anything up to 30 minutes. That stopped people talking about the weather, and they got straight to the point. Time really was money.
I don't think that approach would work at my office. If my family did that to me, I'd be constantly broke.
Another solution discussed in her article was to electrify the metal office parts with a 12v charge. If anyone got really comfortable and started to settle in for the day, as soon as they brushed past anything metal, they got a 'nip' of 12v power. It worked well until the managing director paid a lengthy visit. Enough said of that I think.
I know a guy that walks around with earphones in his ear and connected to his iPhone. You never really know if he is on the phone or not, so you tend not to talk to him until he removes the buds from his ears. If he wants peace and quiet, they stay in his ears and peace and quiet is assured. I suspect he'll start having a conversation now and then, and having observed him for a while, I'm starting to think he is talking to himself some of the time.
One method that could work is the 45:15 method. Workplace relations guru, Heidi Pollard, is credited with the formula for a great work/rest balance.
Starting at the beginning of the hour, the first 45 minutes of every hour is totally work related. No phones, no emails, no social media and no talking to colleagues. If you need to discuss something with a colleague, write it down. At the end of the 45 minutes, the next 15 is free time. You can discuss those things you have written, tell jokes, check your emails, check phone messages and reply to them if need be. When the 15 minutes is up, you start the 45 minute rule again.
I must confess, it sounds like a plan if you work in an office environment that can have a lot of distractions. I might just give it a go. Not talking for 45 minutes would possibly stunt my personality though. Worth a try at least. Don't you think?