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9 Ways To Minimize Interruptions At Work

9 Ways To Minimize Interruptions At Work

You sit down and your PC, inspired, ready to get stuck in to your work, when the phone rings. You answer it, it’s your boss. She wants you to drop in to her office. All done, back at your desk you are ready to get started again. In walks your work colleague from down the hall asking you about a project you both worked on last month. You chat for a bit, he leaves, you are ready to go again, when a couple of your colleagues who sit around you start to chat about recent political happenings. You hear someone make a comment you strongly disagree with, so you can’t help but say your bit. Three hours after you first sat down you open the file to get started. Your stomach rumbles and you get an instant message: “You ready for lunch?”

This is an all too familiar scenario in modern offices. Open-plan designs make it difficult to get things done. It can be hard to block out the noise and activity going on around you. From your boss to your friends, your co-workers to your family, nobody seems to want you to get any work done.

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Here are a handful of suggestions that can help you to minimize the interruptions and stay focused at work:

1. Switch off notifications

Switch off all notifications on your email and phone. If you have email notifications switched on you will get distracted each time you are informed there is new mail. It will take a lot of will power to stay focused and not be tempted to check it out.

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2. Close unnecessary programs

Close all the programs that you are not currently using: email, browsers, Skype, and anything else that could disturb you from what you have planned to do.

3. Switch off your phones

If you really want to focus, switch off your phone, or at least put it on silent. The constant text messages, voice calls, and emails will make it near-impossible to focus properly and get any real work done.

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4. Schedule time

If you plan the time in your schedule, you are much more likely not to allow interruptions to disturb your focus. You know how much time you have allocated to get this job done so you will be more motivated to get it done.

5. Work from home

If possible, working from home can be a a clever solution to the incessant interruptions of the office. If you can organize it, give it a go — you will be much more productive and focused at home.

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6. Move offices

If working from home is not possible, think about moving to a meeting room or somewhere in your office that will be undisturbed. Only let your superiors know where you are. This will minimize your interruptions and allow you to get more work done.

7. Go into work earlier

Getting to the office before the rest of your team can be a simple solution to get some peaceful work time. In one undisturbed hour you may find you get more work done than you do in half a normal day.

8. Do not disturb

If you are lucky enough to have an office, invest in a ‘do not disturb’ sign for your door. You can also put this sign on Skype or instant messaging services.

9. Be assertive

Your last hope is to be assertive and learn to say, “No.” Don’t be ready to help at a moment’s notice; let people know you are working on something and you will help out when you have a minute. Remember, your time is more important to you. When you say, “Yes,” to someone else, you are saying, “No” to yourself, or perhaps even to a loved one. Get assertive and reduce those interruptions to a minimum. This way you will get more done and maybe even have a life.

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Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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