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Do not disturb time

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Question: I just returned from a professional conference.  I've heard of people designating certain times as quiet time (or do not disturb time).  We discussed it, and the trainer suggested doing it on a daily basis, if needed. Each morning, just let your office workers know when you will not be available unless it is an emergency. I've heard of managers using this.  Do any of you admins use it and, if so, what is your process?  -- Jeannette, Rhode Island


In our Company Policy, we allow what you refer to as "quiet time," but we call it a "morning
break," "lunch," or an "afternoon break." All employees are entitled to a break, which specifically means they are not to do any work. That would constitute a "quiet time." The rest of the time, you are supposed to be working.

I am Admin for the Vice-President of Marketing and support an additional 5 managers that report to him. When I am involved in a project requiring "quiet time", I post a white board on my cubicle with the following information. "I am currently unavailable. If you will leave your name, extension and request, I will get back to you at ____". I then make sure that I am available to follow up with them at the specified time.

Because I am faithful in my promise to get back to them, they respect this method and it has worked well for us.

I think the idea of using occasional "quiet time" is valid, especially if you need uninterrupted time to work on a project. (It can be maddening to have to start and stop due to multiple interruptions, "losing your place" each time.) I used to process our company's complicated payroll at my desk (which is in an open area, with no cubicle walls), and found that if I posted signs saying, "Payroll in process; no interruptions, please!" people were respectful of this request. It made it much easier to concentrate (which also minimized errors).

I don't agree with Liz's comment - I think she missed the point. Jeannette is not trying to avoid doing work, but trying to carve out pockets of uninterrupted time to concentrate on specific tasks/projects. Those of us who do not have walls and doors need to figure out a solution to this common problem. I would suggest using this method pretty sparingly, however (it's important to be available to others most of the time, and not abuse the privilege of quiet time), taking advantage of it only when necessary.

I think quiet time is a god send. Sometimes you just have to use it. I think people are so used to a immediate response that we feel guilty if people have to wait. There are very few true "emergencies" but there are many "deadlines", close your door, let voice mail pick up and go to work. I do it and people eventually got used to it and it's not even an issue anymore. Although, when you are available, be ready for the calls!

I carve out 2 hours everyother Monday morning to do payroll and 2 hours on Wednesday mornings to do reports. I built this into my schedule when I first started working here over 3 years ago and everyone respects that time (including my managers) because they know the importance of payroll and the reports. Like Marie stated, because I am faithful in my promise to get back with them if they have any questions or concerns, I have not had any problems with this schedule.

When it is evaluation time, I also block out time in my schedule to get them done as well.

This is to Liz. She did not say "personal time", she said "quiet time". That comment was rude and obnoxious. It wouln't surprise me if you have all the quiet time you need, due to NOBODY wanting to talk to you. This is a professional site, TRY to be professional or stay off it.

Wow, Teresa needs to take a look in the mirror. Although Liz may have misunderstood the reference to "quiet time" she was not unprofessional, rude or obnoxious. Your response however, was.

In response to the question at hand ... another admin professional and myself would back each other up on occassions when we needed some do not disturb time for projects. We would field calls and questions during this time, help where we could or take a message when we couldn't. This sharing worked well for us and staff weren't left in the dark for the period we were unavailable.

We have Quiet Time in our office as well and it works great. We have a Do Not Disturb feature on our phones so that no calls can be put through. Everyone makes their own QT and shuts their door - this means no interruptions whatsoever, unless urgent.

We will also be instituting a central mail location to be used in place of in-boxes. This way you don't have to keep checking to see if someones door is open to route them anything, and causes less interruptions during non-Quiet Time also.

Each of the admin staff also has a back-up person that covers for them when they are out of the office. There is a cheat sheet of things to do when the person is out and all calls are sent to the back-up. It's a great system as long as everyone follows it!

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