Six 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:

 

1. Make a sign on your door or workstation

 

Regardless of your level of seniority in an organisation, 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!”

 

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.

 

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 times 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.

 

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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