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6 Tactics to Avoid Being Interrupted at Work

6 Tactics to Avoid Being Interrupted at Work

How often do you hear the phrase from colleagues, “Oh, I get so much done after hours or on the weekend when everyone’s gone home and there’s no one around!”

We hear these comments because throughout the day it’s often hard to be fully productive with the myriad of distractions, even if mildly unintended. Whether that be small talk, gossip, general chit chat, attention stealers and general office sounds, there’s a lot of ‘noise’ to sift through just to capture your own attention. Combine this with the feeling that you’re always about to be distracted, and it becomes challenging to string long periods of time together without interruption, which leads to poor productivity.

It’s proven that we work to work better and more productively when we can fully focus on a task without being directly interrupted.  Here are some polite and not-so-polite ways of helping create a more respectful and harmonious workplace:

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1. Make a sign on your door or workstation

Regardless of your level of seniority in an organization, outline how you can best be of service to others when they need your attention. Let people know your preferred methods as you may not like someone standing over you, waiting for you to look up and attend to their needs.

Here’s a couple of other examples: “I don’t work well being interrupted, so please don’t knock on the door if it’s closed. That’s why it’s a door. Make a time to catch up or email me! I promise I’ll be with you 100% when I’m with you.”

In fact it would be easier if we simply used hotel room signs “ do not interrupt” at each workstation. The other side reads “please make up my room!”

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do not disturb

    2. Educate people

    Communicate clearly and politely with your colleagues about how you perform best and how you would appreciate their support. Explain how you like to be communicated with. Combine this step with 1, as it might come across a bit heavy simply putting up a sign with no prior explanation! Have an open group discussion with your colleagues around you about how you would all like to be treated.

    3. Wear headphones

    Big chunky ones make you look even less approachable. I find it helps you zone in, even if there’s no music coming through your ears. It also numbs any outside noises and very popular in open plan offices

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    4. Polite enforcement

    Don’t go soft. Be assertive but polite and reinforce your rules every time they are broken. If you don’t communicate clearly to others then you only have yourself to blame.

    5. Have a strike policy

    When the above rule doesn’t work, keep tabs on those who break your rules. Put a gold sticker next to their name for every interruption, and make it visible for all to see! If gold stickers work to reinforce positive behaviors for school children, I bet it works even better as a deterrent of negative behaviors for adults.

    6. Work from home

    While it takes self-discipline and self-motivation, some people work well isolated for short dedicated periods of time. Schedule in certain time to work from home from time to time if you have the luxury of doing so. Fight for it if need be by demonstrating your productivity. Avoid the washing and ironing and TV of course, and ensure there’s quiet space at home.

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    Good luck gaining better control of your space and time without the daily frustration of constant interruptions along with more peace of mind. Your productivity should increase significantly, others will give you more respect and you should now have more of your week nights and weekends back!

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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