Answering, 'Do You Have A Minute?' When You Really Don't

You’re sitting at your desk, working hard on a project that has a strict timeline, when a co-worker walks up to you and asks, “Do you have a minute?” Related: Overcoming Time Management Obstacles Before you answer them, consider these suggestions from Edward Brown, author of The Time Bandit Solution, a book focused on workplace productivity and performance. Here are Brown’s three strategies on answering, “Do you have a minute?”


1. Be confident of your right to decline.

While you want to be able to help your co-worker, you simply don’t have the time to dedicate to them. Your time at work is valuable! According to Brown, when an interruption throws you off task, you lose momentum due to the work stoppage and the time it takes to reorganize your thoughts and resources. “You have to say to yourself, ‘I really don’t have a minute right now,’” said Brown. “If you don’t protect your time, you can’t expect other busy people to protect it for you.”

2. Get over the guilt of saying no.

When someone asks for your time, you might agree to help them (when you really don’t have the time to) because you don’t want to lose that person’s respect. “If the interrupter is your boss, you’re afraid he or she will think you’re not responsive to any needs but your own or you can’t handle your workload,” said Brown. “If it’s a customer, you’re afraid they’ll take their business elsewhere, or if it’s a colleague, you’re afraid you won’t sound like a team player.” Brown provided a great example of why you need to get over the guilt of saying no. “If you have a budget with X dollars a month to spend on eating out, then there’s no agonizing over should you or shouldn’t you,” said Brown. “The dollars tell you yes or no; no argument, no drama.” You can relate this back to the office by saying, if you have X number of hours each day to get X things accomplished, you’ll know exactly how much time you can dedicate to your tasks. If you don’t have the time to help someone, you simply don’t have the time, and that's not something you should feel guilty about.

3. The opposite of 'yes' doesn’t have to be 'no.'

If you know that you can’t help someone out because of time constraints, don’t just say ‘no’ and let the person walk away. Instead, Brown suggests you say something like this: “I would like to give you my full attention. May I let you know when I can do that?” Be sure to custom tailor this type of response depending on the situation and the person asking you. The answer you give your boss shouldn’t be the same as the answer you give your client. “Even though you can’t give your time on the spot, you do have a valuable gift to offer: your full concentration and interest at a time of mutual convenience,” said Brown. Hopefully, with these three simple strategies you’ll be able to answer your co-workers confidently, and with ease the next time they ask for your time.

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About the author

Sarah Lynch is an intern for CAREEREALISM Media. She is a senior Mass Communications Major with a minor in Public Relations at Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.     Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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