Break Time: Give Yourself a QUICK 10

Updated: July 09, 2009

Most professionals find their day fractured by interruptions. What you need is a bulletproof chunk of your workday.You need a Quick 10. Shave off ten minutes -- say, from 11:00 a.m. to 11:10 a.m. -- with no interruptions allowed. Period. No phone calls. No visitors. No e-mails.

Establish this pattern over the course of a week. At 11:00 a.m. every day, announce you're taking a Quick 10. If you need an official reason, say it's to catch up on work, fine-tune a report, return e-mails. Whatever. Action is the strongest course. Ultimately, the magic of your Quick 10 is that it's your business.

When people interrupt, tell them how it's going to be: "I'm in the middle of my Quick 10. I'll be right with you." What's next? See how many more precious minutes you can grab for yourself before the interruptions overwhelm your dam. Maybe in a couple of weeks, your Quick 10 becomes a Quick 20. If you're skilled, in a month, you've gained a quick half hour. Once your immediate coworkers realize there are ten minutes when you're not interrupting them, the clever ones will see the light and want their own Quick 10.

Why does this work? It announces that what you do is important enough that for some period during the day, you cannot be interrupted.

Some will resent your new freedom and come at you from a variety of angles. Minute Man will want those minutes for himself. Bulldozer will try to bully you out of taking the time. Flimflam will try to fool you into doing a specific task that will benefit him during that time. Relax. Yes, you may need to devise special strategies for one or two of the Ten Least Wanted. But most of the people wanting to horn in on your Quick 10 will soon tire of the game and move on to more susceptible victims.

But if someone barges into your office and wants to talk during your time, refrain from rudeness. Let him know that you'll connect with her as soon as you can -- following your Quick 10.

Bosses, of course, are another category. They have an uncanny knack for "needing you" at the most inopportune times, and require the most training and careful handling. But the smart bosses will gradually recognize that your Quick 10, however long it becomes, is a benefit to everybody.

Feel free to let your boss take credit for inventing the Quick 10 productivity concept -- which in his case will quickly stretch into an hour.

So what do you do with your Quick 10? Early on, just bask in the freedom. Own it. Make it yours. Maybe you'll drink some coffee from a real mug. Read the New York Times or Yahoo! Sports, or catch a YouTube video. Perhaps you'll work on your fantasy-football team or write a page of that movie script. And there's nothing wrong with getting some solid work done.
The above is an excerpt from the book I Hate People!: Kick Loose from the Overbearing and Underhanded Jerks at Work and Get What You Want Out of Your Job by Jonathan Littman & Marc Hershon. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

This excerpt is used with the permission of Hachette Book Group, Marc Hershon and Jonathan Littman. All rights reserved.

Author Bios
Jonathan Littman
, is the author of I Hate People! and numerous acclaimed works of nonfiction, including The Fugitive Game, The Watchman, and The Beautiful Game. He is also the coauthor of IDEO's The Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation. He is a contributing editor for Playboy and a columnist for Yahoo! Sports.

Marc Hershon is the coauthor of I Hate People! and a branding expert who helped to create the names for the BlackBerry, Swiffer, nüvi, and many other influential products. He is also a comedy veteran who has worked closely, with Dana Carvey, Bill Maher, and Robin Williams.

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