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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 July 8, 2020

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

What is decision fatigue? Let me explain this with an example:

When determining a court ruling, there are many factors that contribute to their final verdict. You probably assume that the judge’s decision is influenced solely by the nature of the crime committed or the particular laws that were broken. While this is completely valid, there is an even greater influential factor that dictates the judge’s decision: the time of day.

In 2012, a research team from Columbia University[1] examined 1,112 court rulings set in place by a Parole Board Judge over a 10 month period. The judge would have to determine whether the individuals in question would be released from prison on parole, or a change in the parole terms.

While the facts of the case often take precedence in decision making, the judges mental state had an alarming influence on their verdict.

As the day goes on, the chance of a favorable ruling drops:

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    Image source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Does the time of day, or the judges level of hunger really contribute that greatly to their decision making? Yes, it does.

    The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%.

    But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.

    However, right after their lunch break, the judge would return to the courtroom feeling refreshed and recharged. Energized by their second wind, their leniency skyrockets back up to a whopping 65%. And again, as the day drags on to its finish, the favorable rulings slowly diminish along with the judge’s spirits.

    This is no coincidence. According to the carefully recorded research, this was true for all 1,112 cases. The severity of the crime didn’t matter. Whether it was rape, murder, theft, or embezzlement, the criminal was more likely to get a favorable ruling either early in the morning, or after the judges lunch break.

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    Are You Suffering from Decision Fatigue Too?

    We all suffer from decision fatigue without even realizing it.

    Perhaps you aren’t a judge with the fate of an individual’s life at your disposal, but the daily decisions you make for yourself could hinder you if you’re not in the right head-space.

    Regardless of how energetic you feel (as I imagine it is somehow caffeine induced anyway), you will still experience decision fatigue. Just like every other muscle, your brain gets tired after periods of overuse, pumping out one decision after the next. It needs a chance to rest in order to function at a productive rate.

    The Detrimental Consequences of Decision Fatigue

    When you are in a position such as a Judge, you can’t afford to let your mental state dictate your decision making; but it still does. According to George Lowenstein, an American educator and economy expert, decision fatigue is to blame for poor decision making among members of high office. The disastrous level of failure among these individuals to control their impulses could be directly related to their day to day stresses at work and their private life.

    When you’re just too tired to think, you stop caring. And once you get careless, that’s when you need to worry. Decision fatigue can contribute to a number of issues such as impulse shopping (guilty), poor decision making at work, and poor decision making with after work relationships. You know what I’m talking about. Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

    How to Make Decision Effectively

    Either alter the time of decision making to when your mind is the most fresh, or limit the number of decisions to be made. Try utilizing the following hacks for more effective decision making.

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    1. Make Your Most Important Decisions within the First 3 Hours

    You want to make decisions at your peak performance, so either first thing in the morning, or right after a break.

    Research has actually shown that you are the most productive for the first 3 hours[2] of your day. Utilize this time! Don’t waste it on trivial decisions such as what to wear, or mindlessly scrolling through social media.

    Instead, use this time to tweak your game plan. What do you want to accomplish? What can you improve? What steps do you need to take to reach these goals?

    2. Form Habits to Reduce Decision Making

    You don’t have to choose all the time.

    Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it doesn’t have to be an extravagant spread every morning. Make a habit out of eating a similar or quick breakfast, and cut that step of your morning out of the way. Can’t decide what to wear? Pick the first thing that catches your eye. We both know that after 20 minutes of changing outfits you’ll just go with the first thing anyway.

    Powerful individuals such as Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg don’t waste their precious time deciding what to wear. In fact, they have been known to limiting their outfits down to two options in order to reduce their daily decision making.

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    3. Take Frequent Breaks for a Clearer Mind

    You are at your peak of productivity after a break, so to reap the benefits, you need to take lots of breaks! I know, what a sacrifice. If judges make better decisions in the morning and after their lunch break, then so will you.

    The reason for this is because the belly is now full, and the hunger is gone. Roy Baumeister, Florida State University social psychologist[3] had found that low-glucose levels take a negative toll on decision making. By taking a break to replenish your glucose levels, you will be able to focus better and improve your decision making abilities.

    Even if you aren’t hungry, little breaks are still necessary to let your mind refresh, and come back being able to think more clearly.

    Structure your break times. Decide beforehand when you will take breaks, and eat energy sustaining snacks so that your energy level doesn’t drop too low. The time you “lose” during your breaks will be made up in the end, as your productivity will increase after each break.

    So instead of slogging through your day, letting your mind deteriorate and fall victim to the daily abuses of decision making, take a break, eat a snack. Let your mind refresh and reset, and jump-start your productivity throughout the day.

    More Tips About Decision Making

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

    Reference

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