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Implement protected time

Jessica Winchester, WONDER&WANDER

"I’m always feeling like my “to-do” list gets larger and larger as I complete my tasks. It starts to pile up as a creator and founder of a non-profit. It feels like there is never enough time to finish everything. This is mostly due to bouncing between meetings, notifications that pop up, or employees calling or stopping by for “just a quick question.” I have learned a practice that has become essential for me each week in order to maintain my sanity. It’s called Protected Time.

Protected Time, when it is implemented honestly and correctly, can impact your productivity, speed, and even revenue. There are studies that state the average employee wastes up to 41% of their time at work on low-value tasks. They also state that 53% of employees waste at least one hour each day with distractions. If you use Slack, the average user sends 200 messages every day. Let me say that again, the AVERAGE user sends 200 messages every day. Social Media takes up 44 minutes of the average worker's day. The University of California, Irvine reports that employees may only spend about 3 minutes on a task before switching to another. I can go on and on. I'm not a spokesperson in this area, it just really speaks to me. Distraction kills productivity and focus. Switching between tasks affects your production and it can take almost a half hour to get back up to the speed you were working at before you became distracted.

Protected Time is a chunk of time, at least two hours, where you are uninterrupted. This means phones go away, social media (for personal purposes) goes away, there's a sign on your door regarding interruptions, Slack notifications are off, etc. I schedule this time into my day so that I can get things done. And I do. I get more done in those two hours than I do in one or two days of normal scheduling. Protected Time is easier said than done. Here are some strategies I've learned and that have become habitual to me.

1. Learning how to ignore people: Instead of answering emails or incoming messages from people, I set aside time each day, outside of Protected Time, to answer these messages. I also create a customized "silenced" message on my email, phone, and outgoing programs. Another idea is to have scheduled time in your week or schedule where employees know they can come to you, and you are available.

2. I maximize my calendar time and schedule items back-to-back to avoid short time frames in between events. Also, make sure the meetings you are having are actually necessary and the time frames are accurate. Don't schedule a meeting or event for an hour just because your calendar automatically creates this for you. Meeting burnout is a real thing.

3. Block off and schedule your Protected Time as much as you need it. Encourage your team members to do the same. Choose a task or two to work on during your Protected Time. Be prepared so that you can put your time into these tasks.

One of the biggest advantages of Protected Time is the increase in revenue. Working in the non-profit sector is no joke. We need to maximize our resources, and one of our biggest resources is our staff and their ability to be productive. Distractions directly impact "higher workload" tasks more than "lower workload" tasks. Those "higher workload" tasks in my organization are important tasks that bring in our revenue. If staff are distracted or if I become distracted, I bring in money slower and essentially bring in less money. This is true in any field. If I'm distracted, I'm likely to make more errors, and consumer satisfaction decreases. This can also impact my revenue streams.

Overall, Protected Time allows me the confidence and life balance I need to be able to go home, switch gears, and focus on myself and my family."

Advice Contributor

Jessica Winchester

Jessica Winchester is the CEO and Founder of WONDER&WANDER. She is an artist, sculptor, podcaster, and instructor who has devoted her life to helping individuals with disabilities and finding accommodations so everyone can enjoy music and theater.

See Jessica's Site