It’s amazing how so many people do so little work. I know that I personally can waste time with the best of them, losing hours to meaningless email, workplace chatter and random meetings that accomplish next to nothing. As I’m rarely wasting time by myself, perhaps you or others can relate?
One of the most frustrating things about trying to be productive at work is the occasional “pop-bye” colleague who drops in and stays beyond a reasonable amount of time. What can you do to keep them moving along? Here are some suggestions:
Reposition Your Desk: If your desk faces the doorway or a hallway, you might consider moving it towards a wall or so that you don’t seem as accessible to the sporadic drop-in. Sure, it’s less friendly but depending on your job, it might do the trick.
Buy a Large Clock: Placing a clock in a key location in your office is helpful as it allows you to look at it occasionally and then comment on it. “It’s getting late, I better get back to work,” or “Wow- 4:15 already,” are helpful lines that give your visitor a clue that you are actually trying to get work done.
Look at Your Watch: Sure, it’s rude and borderline obsessive-compulsive but it works. A quick glance to the watch will tell your friend that time is money and something not to be wasted. Your watch doesn’t even have to be working- your visitor doesn’t know but will quickly take the hint.
Stand and Don’t Sit Down: When someone arrives for a pop-bye, stand and greet her but don’t sit down. Standing tells your visitor that you have things to do so let’s get on with it.
Use Savvy Lines Like “I’ll Walk You Out”: I’ve used this many times and it works wonders. You can also the visitor if they know the way to the front of the building or you can inquire about the location of their parking. You’re not being dishonest, only strategic with your time. Some folks can talk forever so the smart worker knows when it’s time to hit the evacuate button.
Head Out the Door to a Real Appointment: As you are a savvy knowledge worker, use your own schedule to your advantage and start heading out the door to your own meeting which is scheduled. A polite “excuse me, I have a meeting to attend,” is all you need to say.
Head Out the Door to an Appointment With Yourself: If you don’t have a meeting with someone else, you can always schedule an on-the-spot meeting with yourself. Who says you can’t work in another location or even off-site? Know when to pick up some work and then move to another spot. You’ll decrease the time of the pop-in and probably get more work done in the new location.
Be Honest: Last but never least, honesty can be a potent conversation killer. Remember, you’re not being rude, only focused. If you just don’t have the time to chat, tell the other person or schedule a follow up at a time that works for you.
Mike St. Pierre is the host of The Daily Saint, a productivity blog.