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What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to managing your time?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from over 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

What is the biggest challenge you face when it comes to managing your time?

  • Too many meetings: 18%
  • Too many emails: 22%
  • Too many interruptions: 40%
  • Poor calendar planning: 2%
  • Difficulty estimating task length: 10%
  • Something else: 7%

Pardon the interruption. The clear winner in time management challenges is the dreaded interruption. Once someone breaks your concentration, it takes 5 to 15 minutes to get back on track. Find ways to minimize the interruptions. Close your door. Work in a conference room outside your normal work area. Work from home. If an interruption does happen, try telling the person “It sounds like this is an important issue. I want to give it the attention it deserves. I’m focused on something else right now. Can we set a time to reconnect later today to discuss?” It acknowledges their issue and tells them they’re important. It allows you to get back to your task. And a lot of times by the time that meeting has rolled around, the person has resolved the issue without your help. Everyone wins. If you don’t protect your time, no one else will do it for you. Be proactive about it if you want to actually get things done.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."