Last Updated on April 28, 2020 by Dave Schoenbeck
We’ve all been there: you’re making progress on a big project when… ding! A new email pops up in your inbox. Or a coworker stops by your office to chat. Or the phone rings. Even if it seems small at the time, these little distractions can severely impair our overall productivity in the workplace.
If you’re tired of the constant interruptions, here’s what you need to know about how to avoid interruptions at work.
Why Are Interruptions Harmful?
Aside from being a bit aggravating, it’s been found that even the smallest workplace interruptions can have a severe effect on your workflow. I’ve written before about how interruptions are one of the biggest time wasters at work: emails alone have been found to disrupt us 37 times per hour!
According to the Washington Post, we can lose up to 6 hours each workday to interruptions between the time it takes to address the disruption and the time we need to switch back to the original task and find our focus.
For some people, that leaves just 2 hours a day to get work done—not very efficient. That means learning how to avoid interruptions at work isn’t just helpful; it’s necessary if you want to get the job done.
How to Avoid Interruptions at Work
One of the primary sources of interruptions at work is from teammates, whether they have questions for you or just want to chat. It’s up to you to let employees know when you need to concentrate.
Start by scheduling “no-interruption periods” during your day and adding them to your calendar so everyone can see them. Let employees know that you’re not to be disturbed during these times and refer any urgent matters to a trusted manager.
Another strategy is to work from a conference room or other area that your team wouldn’t think to look for you. If you’re not at your desk, they’re more likely to save non-important interruptions for whenever they next see you. If you can’t do that, put your headphones in when you need to concentrate—it’s the universal sign for “don’t talk to me.”
If the issue is an employee bombarding you with questions about a project you’ve assigned them, you might want to take another look at your delegation strategy—being clear about your expectations up-front can save you the trouble of answering questions later. Better delegation will help solve time management interruptions.
Avoiding Personal Distractions
When thinking about how to avoid interruptions at work, it’s important to look at our habits as well. If you find that you compulsively check email or voicemail messages, try to avoid the temptation by blocking these applications while you’re working. Closing out of your inbox until you’re ready to check it saves you the distraction of seeing those notifications pop up.
Change your voicemail message to say that you’ll only be checking messages 3 times per day, then stick to that schedule. Essential or urgent calls can either be forwarded to a coworker or directed to another method of contact, such as email.
It’s also a good idea to work on the most important tasks early in the day when your mind is fresh, and you’re less likely to procrastinate. By getting the problematic tasks out of the way first thing in the morning, you allow yourself more time in the afternoons for interruptions to potentially occur.
All of us have struggled with how to avoid interruptions at work. Let’s schedule a complimentary video call to work on some ideas. Click here to set up a call, and we’ll chat.