Editor's note: This is a guest post from Barry Demp of Demp Coaching
In the military, rather than waiting passively for the enemy to attack, you attack first – this is called a pre-emptive strike.
The pre-emptive strike isn’t just useful in the military, though: it’s also a powerful technique that I use with my coaching clients in the business world.
You may have certain high-maintenance employees and co-workers who tend to interrupt a lot and ruin your momentum. Maybe you get a phone call, or they pop into your office – however the interruption comes, it breaks your flow. This is when a pre-emptive strike is warranted.
Why Interruptions Are So Disruptive
If you think back to your physics lessons, you’ll remember that something in motion tends to stays in motion – but something that starts and stops loses its momentum. This is exactly what happens to you when your work day is constantly interrupted.
Think of driving a vehicle. If you drive 200 miles without stopping, your gas mileage will be pretty good. But if you drive 200 miles and have to start and stop at lights, because of traffic, and so on ... it’ll take much longer and your gas mileage will be much worse.
How to Conduct a Pre-Emptive Strike Against Interruptions
Identify the time thieves of your day, particularly when they happen to be people. Which clients phone you eight times a day? Which colleagues constantly want your advice?
Find out who those folks are and proactively engage them on your timeline. If they usually call at 10:00AM, consider establishing a time earlier in the day to discuss a mutually agreed upon list of tasks and priorities.
I was coaching a woman who was an executive at a public relations firm and she had a very high-maintenance marketing director at an automotive supplier. Although she spent a good portion of the day working on his project, he would call five or more times a day and interrupt her.
We introduced a pre-emptive strike: she would have a call with him first thing in the morning and tell him in detail what they were doing for him and his account. She’d also ask whether there was anything else he needed from her. After that conversation, he was out of ammunition: there was nothing more he wanted, expected or needed. He was satisfied knowing that his needs – and his whims – were being taken care of.
How the Pre-Emptive Strike Can Help
A pre-emptive strike allows you and your client or colleague to prepare a list of needs or problems to discuss: instead of having to deal with those things throughout the day, you can ask people to save them for when you’re going to meet.
Many times, your pre-emptive strike strategy will help others to solve their own problems: they may come up with their own ideas rather than turning straight to you.
We’re all time-crunched and pulled in so many directions – let’s have every interaction be as meaningful and effective as possible.
Pre-Emptive Strikes Aren’t Just For Work
You can use pre-emptive strikes in your personal life, too. For instance, if you have family members who call you when you get home and just want to relax, try calling them first, while you’re driving home. That way, Mom or Dad won’t call in the middle of your favorite TV show.
What if Your High-Maintenance Client / Colleague Isn’t Responsive?
You won’t eliminate interruptions by using the pre-emptive strike – but you can create some boundaries and agreements.
For instance, you could tell people “I’m really busy today and won’t be available by phone, but you’re welcome to send a text or email.” If they still interrupt, you can ask them “Can it wait?” and encourage them to work through the issues on their own.
You may need to introduce two or three pre-emptive strikes: first thing in the morning, just before lunch, and at the end of the day for closure. Three phone calls are still better than ten!
By being proactive and using a pre-emptive strike – instead of being reactive and constantly being interrupted – you’re able to take better control of your day.
Do you have a high-maintenance client, colleague or family member? What are you going to do to take back control?
Barry Demp is a highly-skilled Michigan Business and Personal coach. He specializes in helping small business owners, executives, consultants and other professionals to boost their productivity, profitability, and life balance.
Image courtesy of Chris_Britton
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