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Don’t bother with complex tasks

It’s a fact of life that, as a leader, you will be interrupted throughout every working day. No matter how much you empower your staff to make decisions autonomously, you will always have interruptions. And, there is plenty of research to show that much time is wasted in ‘mental set up time’ as you subconsciously deal with the cognitive shift between your primary task and the interruption.

So, what can you do about it?

We recommend that leaders set aside around 10% of their week to work uninterrupted, preferably in an isolated space such as a spare meeting room. We understand that, as a leader, you need to be visible to your staff, but 10% is likely to be significantly less time than that spent in meetings.

How should you plan to make effective use of this uninterrupted time?

  • Let your staff and 1-up manager know where you will be in case a critically important matter arises that requires your immediate attention – you will need to determine and articulate the criteria.
  • Load up on high complexity / less urgent tasks (such as reading legislation, reviewing contracts or completing performance appraisals).
  • Book a meeting room with adequate facilities, such as a network connection.
  • Before you get started, turn your e-mail off or change to manual Send/Receive (remember to switch this back to automatic when you’re done).


Not only will benefits flow from getting more work done at a higher quality, you are likely to be a more approachable leader when you are back at your desk.