Answering the Dreaded ‘Got a Minute?’

Answering the Dreaded ‘Got a Minute?’

09/23/16 Laura Gibbons

By Edward G. Brown
Got a minute? The fact is, unless you are a great rarity today, no you don’t have a minute! Yet when almost anybody asks, “Got a minute?” you automatically answer, “Sure, how can I help?” How do you stop doing that? I offer the following suggestions.

Name the problem. First, recognize it’s not a minute, it’s an interruption. A minute freely chosen and freely given is innocuous, but interruptions are thieving little intrusions. There’s the interruption that throws you off task. There’s loss of momentum due to the work stoppage. There’s also the time wasted in reassembling your thoughts.

Recognize the cause. Why do you say yes when inside you’re thinking, “God grant me patience, how will I get everything done?” Because you’re afraid – not shaking in your boots afraid, but you have fears. If it’s your boss, you’re afraid he or she will think you’re not responsive to any needs but your own or you can’t handle your workload. If it’s a customer, you’re afraid they’ll take their business elsewhere. If it’s your colleagues, you’re afraid you won’t sound like a team player.

Don’t say “no.” The opposite of “yes” doesn’t have to be “no.” “I would like to give you my full attention. May I let you know when I can do that?” Some version of those words needs to be custom-tailored to every got-a-minute interrupter, or “Time Bandit” on your list. They let your interrupter know that his or her best interests aren’t served any better than yours by this interruption. Most of all, they keep you from sounding like that selfish jerk you dread. Scripting your negotiation and rehearsing its delivery, tailored for each of your main “Time Bandits,” will banish any remaining fear.

Make time a gift. In this day and age, when it seems like everyone is distracted, it’s no small thing to offer your would-be Time Bandit your full attention to his or her needs. When you say, “I want to take care of that for you, and when do, I want to be focused so that the outcome will have the quality both of us expect,” the Time Bandit will not only be mollified about your current unavailability – he or she will be gratified, which is what you want. And you get to keep your “minute,” too.

Edward G. Brown is the author of The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had and cofounder of the Cohen Brown Management Group.

Source: Employee Assistance Report Brown Bagger, Volume 19, No. 10, October 2016

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