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Be clear about what a waste of time is and what it is not

   |   Andrew Griffiths


I am sure I am not alone when I say that interruptions drive me crazy. It seems like every time I am trying to focus on what I am doing someone calls me, knocks on the door or emails me, and I have to take my attention away from the task at hand and give it to this distraction.

One day I realised just what a bad habit I had developed. I was irritated when a customer walked in the door to give me business. Really? Or a member of my staff would be coming to ask a question, mostly to do with their job and normally something to do with meeting the needs of a customer. And when it comes to emails, sure there are lots of distractions, but I get 50% of my work from emails, and here I was getting grumpy every time someone was contacting me trying to give me work.

I must say I felt ashamed at how my attitude had become so bad bad. I also realised that my grumpiness didn't go unnoticed. I was giving off an irritated "vibe" which was picked up by my staff and my customers, which of course made me feel even more ashamed.

I was relating my new found shame to a mentor of mine and she said something extremely profound to me. She said "if you think your customers are irritating imagine life without them".

An interesting thought of course. Just how would my life look without customers? Well I would certainly have a lot of time that was sure, but I wouldn't have much to do if I didn't have any customers. And of course I wouldn't have any money, so I would need to find a new street corner to live on. Then there were my staff, no need for them, so I would be responsible for some of their hardship.

This obvious train of thought, and simplistic extension of the reality I could face, really made me stop, think and change my attitude. I made the mental decision to get excited every time a customer came in the door, or a customer called or emailed. Likewise if a member of my team knocked on my door I would welcome them in and give them my full and undivided attention.

Of course, the interruptions never go away; only my response and attitude have changed. I can't change my staff or customer's behavior but I can take proactive steps to pre-empt situations where I might get irritated. For example, regular follow-up calls ensure I can anticipate problems and requests. I also use technology to optimize my work processes which means more time available for staff and customer interactions. Finally, turning off mobile devices, sound notifications and disabling pop-up boxes whenever possible, allows me to schedule regular email and voice message checks without interrupting my workflow. By managing interruptions, I keep a positive attitude that conveys an upbeat and engaged 'vibe' to customers and staff.

It took me a little while but in a week or so, my bad attitude was replaced with one that was much better. Everyone noticed, my business benefited financially and I attracted many more new customers. I think of this every time I walk into a business and I am confronted with a grumpy business owner, who clearly looks at me as an interruption to their day. If only they realised what their attitude is costing them.

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