Every office has a “Wally.” You’re trying to finish a project, and you notice Wally standing in the doorway, coffee cup in hand. He grins. “Hey! How ‘bout that game?” Wally represents half an hour of lost time if you engage him.
Stand up. First, standing up is a sign of respect. Second, standing up discourages Wally from sitting down.
Ask Wally what he wants. “Wally, how may I serve you?” or “Wally, what brings you here today?” The question gently, tactfully, politely tells Wally you’re busy.
Be in the “middle.” If you tell Wally you’re finishing up the project, he’ll wait. If you tell Wally you’re just getting started, he’ll figure you’re not invested. By saying “Wally, I’m in the middle of a project right now,” you’re telling him there’s no easy way for you to entertain him.
If Wally has something important, schedule it. Offer to meet with him for lunch tomorrow. Offer him half an hour on Friday. Just not now. He’s interrupting.
You control your schedule; you’re the only one who can.