STOP INTERRUPTING ME!

By Sharon F. Danzger

HOW CAN YOU GET WORK DONE WHEN YOU ARE ALWAYS BEING INTERRUPTED?

You sit down to write the proposal you've been putting off for two weeks. As soon as you get started, the phone rings. An interruption. Back to work for 10 minutes; you're finally in a groove when someone stops by your desk to ask a question. Another interruption. Back to writing the proposal for 15 minutes and you get a text that dinner with clients will be a half hour later.

With all of these interruptions, how are you supposed to get any work done?

You are not alone.

Technology notifications and open floor plans make it nearly impossible to find uninterrupted time to focus on your most difficult work.

HOW CAN YOU MANAGE THE INTERRUPTIONS?

Interruptions fall into one of three categories:  unnecessary,  necessary, or untimely.

1. Unnecessary interruptions waste your time. Spending 30 minutes discussing the details of Mark's date last Saturday night or gossiping over what Alicia wore to the office holiday party is completely unproductive.  Save these conversations for happy hour after work.
 
2. Necessary interruptions have value and should be addressed immediately. Sometimes you are interrupted for something really important - even more important than what you are working on. This is a good interruption...the "Fire" as opposed to the "Fire Drill." These necessary interruptions force you to prioritize on a moment's notice.
 
3. Untimely interruptions are necessary but can be handled at another time. A colleague comes by to get some data for a report she needs to submit by the end of the week. The proposal you're working on needs to be sent out before the end of the day.  Ideally, you want to reschedule with your co-worker for a more appropriate time.
 
In any of these situations, it is important to communicate clearly and respectfully to the person trying to engage you. It isn't always 'what you say' but 'how you say it' that matters most.

HOW CAN YOU GET YOUR WORK DONE?

All of this is nice, but the interruptions are still getting in your way.  The suggestions above will reduce the amount of time spent on interruptions but won't eliminate them.

You know the hard work that requires you to focus for the greatest amount of uninterrupted time? Here are some strategies for finding the quiet time you need to get it done:

  1. Block out time in your schedule earlier or later in the workday when there tend to be fewer interruptions.
  2. Put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on your cubicle or office door will help to deter well-meaning colleagues.
  3. Turn off notifications on phone and computer.
  4. Close all browsers and email application.
  5. Consider working off-site (maybe from home or in a library.)

For more productivity tips, check out these recent posts:

GOOD ENOUGH

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