How often are you distracted at work?
‘The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.’ – ZW. Edwards Deming
That probably sounds pretty familiar to most of you and some may be thinking “Fifty? That’s all? It seems like more than that!” Interruptions at work can be a key barrier to managing your time effectively, maximizing your productivity and, ultimately, can be a barrier to success in the workplace. Consider for a minute your last workday and think about the many interruptions that occurred. There may have been phone calls, emails, conversations, and co-workers that walk into our office for a quick chat (or send us amusing instant messages) and anything else that demanded your attention and, in doing so, distracted you from the task at-hand.
Because your day only has so many hours in it, a handful of small interruptions can add up quickly and rob you of the much needed time you need to achieve your goals and be successful in your work and life. More so, they can break your focus, meaning that you have to spend time reengaging with the thought processes needed to successfully complete complex work.
There are many ways to deal with interruptions and the key to controlling them is to know what they are and whether they are necessary, and to plan for them in your daily schedule. Now that you know what they are, here are a couple ways to manage them.
-Ever notice how much you get done early in the morning before the rest of your colleagues arrive or on an airplane when you travel? That’s because there is no one around to interrupt you. See if you can create that during the day. Set aside 2 hours where you lock your door, do not answer the phone or respond to emails that do not need immediate attention. If you don’t have a door, put up a little sign that says something about if their hair is not on fire than to leave you alone for this amount of time. Wear noise canceling headphones or go to the coffee shop downstairs. People will, hopefully, get used to that this is your interrupted time if you make it a regular part of your day or week.
-Jot everything down on a piece of paper that you need to get done. Unless you are a procrastinator and you put things off, don’t bother prioritizing the tasks, you know what needs to get done. Then just get down to business. When it is all on one piece of paper you can see how you might be able to do some of the items in groups. That can speed up your productivity. Whatever you do, ask yourself if it really is the best use of your time. This will help you refocus on your priorities.
Interruptions are a random and unexpected factor in your work day and we all face dealing with them on a daily basis. Distractions not only lower our productivity, they also increase our stress. Strategies like scheduling email checks, turning off your phone, and leaving the office for a quieter environment may eliminate distractions so that you get more done. Try several strategies to find the ones that work, and then stick to them. They will control you unless you control them. It is your choice.
‘Oh, and don’t forget to go out and buy a good ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.
Lisa Rezac is Vice President of Instruction for the Western region. She is based in Seattle, Washington and also teaches in Portland, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego and other Western cities.
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Keywords: interruptions | workplace