Thursday, January 26, 2012

Office Productivity - Effective Loitering & Dropping In

Whether you are an executive assistant or anyone needing face time with your boss or colleague, effective loitering and drop ins, also known as drive bys, are tactics you should employ. It means standing around and waiting while they finish up their conversation so you can swoop in unscheduled before the next meeting starts. Here are 10 tips I hope you find handy.

1) Stay within eye sight, but not within listening distance.
You want them to see you waiting, but give them enough privacy so they can talk in peace. You want to stay within eye shot so they don't think they have more time to talk because you are no longer waiting around.

2) Mouth patient messages.
While waiting, you can mouth "no rush" or "take your time" so they don't feel pressured. If the wait is too long for you, you can also always leave with a friendly good bye wave, the "I'll call you" hand gesture or again mouthing "I'll come back" or "catch you later." Remember to smile and look friendly when you do this!

3) Tell those around you that you are loitering.
Whenever you are loitering outside anyone's office, the people sitting near by may give you questionable looks. It's best to explain you are loitering so they don't think you're standing there spying on them or wonder why you've been in the same spot for 10 minutes. It also helps executive assistants know you're only hoping to get in unscheduled and if you don't it's okay.

4) Ask for good drop in times.
If you're trying to see someone who has an executive assistant, it's good to ask for ball park times on when a drop in might be good. This way you have 3-5 times you can try throughout the day to catch the person between meetings. If you're really close with the assistant, you can get extra information like when is NOT a good time or to be helpful you can remind the person you're seeing, "I know Jason from Accounting will be here soon."

5) Don't react to their convo.
When you are waiting your turn, don't react to anything you see or hear as you are supposed to be invisible to them. This goes along with the no listening in rule. If you don't give them their privacy, they are more inclined to walk to a different space or shut the door on you thus cocooning them from the outside world and the chance for you to get in there quicker.

6) Preface your question with permission.
As soon as it's your turn, ask "Do you have 30 secs?" or however much time you need. Always offer to come back at a better time. If they are finishing up an email, state you can wait until they are done. Do not start talking while they are clearly finishing up something else. If it seems they need an extra 2-3 minutes before they are done with that email, state you'll go use the restroom or grab a water so they don't feel bad or pressured.

7 ) Suggest a walk and talk.
When really pressed for time, offer the person a walk and talk. This way they really know it will be a short convo and they won't be late and can kill two birds with one stone. Walk someone back to their office, their car, their next meeting, the kitchen, but not the restroom.

8) Bring stuff while you wait.
Since you may end up waiting 10 or 15 minutes, bring something to do. Organize your thoughts. Check your Blackberry for messages. Brainstorm for your next meeting while you wait. Write out your to do list for the day. You might as well be productive while you wait. You do not want to stare at them like a hawk while you are waiting or look bored.

9) Loitering and drive bys are meant for 30 sec - 5 min convos max.
Usually if it takes any longer than that, you should schedule 15 minutes on someone's calendar. You really just need a yes or no answer, clarification, or direction instead of having long, drawn out, thought-provoking pow wow sessions.

10) Don't take offense.
Sometimes your boss will have to run off to a meeting to take a call in the middle of your drop in time. Don't take it personally and state you understand the new competing request is a higher priority. Don't say anything to make them feel bad or that you are less important.


  1. Thank you for the great post. I do all of the above, but I've often felt I was the only one to practice effective loitering--it may explain why I have a reputation for getting needed signatures quickly. My fellow assistants will wait in their offices until the person walks by, whereas, I go and find the person. I've greatly enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you.

  2. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstAugust 20, 2015 at 5:31 PM

    Charles - Thank you for kind comment. I am so glad you are enjoying my blog and that I'm not the only persistent one in effective loitering. :) I hope you are having a great summer.