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Do You Have a Minute? (Sabrina Starling on Small Business)

Sabrina Starling On Small Business
2 min read

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Does it ever feel like you could get more done if only you had fewer interruptions? How often is your day interrupted by team members asking, “Do you have a minute?” This is context switching, and it is very costly to our productivity. It can take 20 minutes to get back on track when we are interrupted while working on a project. I will share two strategies you can implement to reduce the interruptions to your day.

First, make sure you are having regular (weekly or biweekly) one-on-one meetings with those you supervise. These meetings should have an agenda. Train your team members to add their questions to the agenda for their next one-on-one. Many issues do not need to be solved right away. You also can add issues to the agenda. This will prevent you from interrupting your team members and disrupting their workflow with context switching. Your team members will greatly appreciate being able to work in a more focused manner.

Next, implement the “3 before me” rule of thumb. This is something preschool teachers do with children. It works for adults too! Implementing 3 before me means that before someone comes to you with a question, they are expected to try three ways to find the solution. For example, they might look up the standard operating procedure, try to come up with a solution themselves by researching on the internet, or ask a co-worker.

To effectively implement the 3 before me rule of thumb:

  • Make sure your team members are adequately trained in their position.
  • Let employees know your expectation is the 3 before me rule of thumb.

Because the business owner tends to be “one who knows how to do everything” in the business, it’s tempting for team members to come to you with questions before trying to figure things out on their own. In the interest of “saving time,” it’s tempting for you to answer their questions and move on.

Doing this repeatedly creates a much bigger problem. You become the bottleneck in your business. When you’re the bottleneck, you can’t get around to doing the work on your business that you need to be doing to grow it and add value.


Sabrina Starling, Ph.D., PCC, BCC, is the bestselling author of “How to Hire the Best” and “The 4 Week Vacation.” Founder of tapthepotential.com and host of the “Profit by Design” podcast, she and her team coach entrepreneurs to take their lives back from their businesses. They are on a mission to send 10,000 entrepreneurs on a four-week vacation in 10 years.
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