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Sorry for the Interruption, but are You your own secret Time Bandit?

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Tory Burch Quote on priorities


Sometime back, a client, whom I shall call Dolce, mentioned how her efficiency was being affected by constant interruptions in the office. She referred to these interruptions as her Time Bandits.  A spot of reflection and a closer look at the situation revealed much to Dolce’s surprise that in fact, she herself was her secret Time Bandit!

The realization was aided by the fact that in each situation that Dolce recounted, there were actions that she could have, should have taken but did not. Dolce admitted that not all interruptions were time-wasters; some were important to her work and saved her hours of effort which would have gone waste if information had not been given to her on a timely basis.  We can plan our day with the world’s best To Do List but it can go to waste if we do not also plan for unplanned events or updates.

It is important to keep interruptions in perspective. Quite often while you are working through your Urgent and Important or Important but Not Urgent set of tasks, there may be a colleague for whom interrupting you is imperative to complete their Urgent and Important Tasks which might in fact tie up with your successfully completing your tasks. The use of judgement to filter genuine interruptions from time wasting ones is imperative to master the art of time management.


How about the real deal genuine & authentic Time Bandits?

That being said, what about the real deal; the genuine and authentic time wasters? Well, here is where the rubber hits the road and it depends on both your time management strategy and commitment to minimize negative interruptions.

Quite often, letting people know that you are working towards a deadline in advance does the trick. Setting the stage helps to filter the time-wasters who would know better than to disturb you at the peril of death!

Some of my friends use a call back system on their mobile phones and it is quite effective. Messages are recorded and calls are returned based on the urgency of the message.  Take it a step further and send automated text messages saying that you are in a meeting and will return the call. If it really is important, people will text back the reason for their call and then it is up to you to decide if the interruption is worth it.

One of my favorites is from a former boss who used to tell us that he had only 5 minutes and if the matter required more time, to schedule a meeting for later. It worked!

It also helps to encourage people to get to the point quickly. If the other person is droning away with history, politely but firmly request them to tell you the purpose of the call or ask what the problem is.

Sometimes one simply has to be ruthless with the interrupter but I suggest that it be done politely. Some people are not as articulate as you might be and need to be guided to get their desired solution.  Give your full attention but be firm, helpful and guide them in the right direction.  If possible, do not send them away empty-handed. There may come a time when you need their help and you would want reciprocity of assistance.

There are other ways to self-manage the interruption Time Bandit.

How do you deal with your Time Bandits? Please do share in the comments box below!


Need help with your Time Bandits but don’t need a full coaching program? My Time Management Tip Sheets are a great place to start! 


Karmic Ally Coaching Time Management Tip Sheets



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24 Responses to “Sorry for the Interruption, but are You your own secret Time Bandit?”

  1. Trish Samson says:

    Good morning,
    Here are a couple of ideas to beat the time bandit.

    When Í’m working on an important task, I turn off my phone and return the call when finished.

    Set aside a few time segments each day to answer email. Turn off the notification bell so you are not disturbed each time an email arrives. In my world that is about every 2 minutes.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you for visiting the blog, Trish. These are super tips! Given the volume of work emails you receive, if you were to answer emails as they came in, I doubt much work would get done. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great tips! I especially like the one about scheduling an appointment if the caller will be taking more than 5 minutes! For me, I have a rule about emails. I look at them once a day and that’s in the afternoon. My best energy is in the morning and I don’t want to waste it with petty emails. The only exception is if I am waiting on an answer from someone. Then I will scan them in the morning to find it. Otherwise, I stay out of the emails til later.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you for sharing your technique to tackle The Interruption Time Bandit. I follow a similar routine and find, the new Google does help in sifting through priority emails. It is always a good idea to have 2 email ids, one used only for work and the other for non-work activities.

  3. I like those ideas! Especially the 5 minute one bc my pet peeve is people who don’t get to the stinkin point! great post!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Welcome to the blog, Angie. I agree, the 5 minute warning is a great tip. I saw it in action with my boss who incidentally was my second mentor during my corporate career. Sometimes with the more thick-skinned people, one does need to also point out that their 5 minutes are up!

  4. WOW! They are all wonderful ideas, especially the 5 minute one! When I am working on something that needs to be finished in a certain time period, I mute my phone and stay off social media sites…that way I don’t get distracted. It works…most of time. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Vatsala.

  5. Kathy Robinson says:

    Great tips. I would also add asking them to send you an email about it as you are in the middle of something important. That gets those time wasters off the phone.

  6. elizabeth says:

    Okay, you just gave me a great idea! I have a great deal of difficulty getting my family and friends to understand this issue! I’m trying this! Thanks Karmic!

  7. Good ideas to keep you o purpose with your day!

  8. Some great tips in this article, most people do not like saying No to others. For such a small word it has many negative connotations. I try to get people to realise that they can say no, nicely if they use assertive communication techniques

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you for dropping by at the Blog, Mike. I agree, saying a polite but firm no is a vital action to have effective time management. Assertiveness and the word No are great antidotes to time mis-management.

  9. Robin Strohmaier says:

    These are excellent tips! I had never thought of myself as being a Time Bandit, and you are absolutely right. One way that I try to self-manage the interruptions is to turn off the push-pull download of my email messages on my iPhone. This way, I download the messages when I have the time to devote attention to them. Another way to manage my time is when I have a huge project that I am working on and must meet a deadline. I will close any social media windows that are open on my PC, and sometimes even my email program.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you for sharing your precious tips, Robin. We often fall into the trap of blaming the environment and forget that our own empowered behavior can control Time Bandits like Interruption.

  10. You had me grinning with this one! What if the time bandit is your husband?? I have repeatedly told him to say what he has to say in that 1 interruption – but he still continues to do it. Happily he works away from home so I just have to be patient every 2 days! Lol… You gave excellent tips here. Never know – one of these might work with him. Thanks!! x0x

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I had a good laugh when I read your comment, Norma. Family members, particularly spouses can be Time Bandits and are difficult to train the way we can with Pet Children. Keep us posted on your success with the tips vis a vis your hubby, though I think it is wonderful that he enjoys your company so much that he ignores the interruption rules you set. 🙂

  11. For sure, I think we are our own worst ememies when it comes to time. I do love your former boss’s technique of 5 minutes or out… I am finding that, since I work from home, that I need to set work times and ‘home’ times, otherwise I get less of each done if I try to both at once!! Thank you!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Welcome, Leslie and Moira. The 5 minute technique does work. Working from home requires us to be assertive with our boundaries but it is equally important to build in family time into our routine with a specific time allocation. In time, everyone learns the routine and there are no overlaps with wasted time.

  12. Excellent tips to help us stay grounded and dedicated to the task at hand – thanks for sharing!

  13. Sharon O'Day says:

    During work hours, no one drops by or calls me “just to chat” … a boundary I honor for them as well. As for non-chat situations, we usually have a good idea who is going to be long-winded, so mostly need an effective strategy to deal with them. Re email, my international consulting business is run on email and I normally have to move things forward as they come in. I have my email downloading every 10 minutes, and appearing quietly in the lower corner of my monitor, so in 10 seconds I know if there’s anything I have to address. And I can ignore it if I have to. Works for me, but then we all work differently!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thanks for sharing your valuable tips, Sharon. I agree that there are different strokes for different folks but sometimes new ideas and ways of doing things can be learned from shared experiences.

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I believe the world would be a better place if high achieving professionals accepted setbacks and challenges to their careers as Wake Up Calls to embark on a Journey where their empowered course correcting actions create a New World Order that encompasses achieving their career aspirations & potential with authentic life balance.

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