Do you often feel like you get nothing done because of constant interruptions and distractions? You’re not alone.
Being interrupted is one of the most often cited reasons for low productivity. Between the phone ringing, emails, texts, and other social media “alerting you” to new messages, and your coworkers stopping by to talk about work, (or not!), a memo that should take a half hour to write ends up taking two or three times as long. Multitasking is a bit of a myth. Recent studies show that too often both tasks suffer. It’s clear at least that certain work needs your undivided attention to be done efficiently and effectively.
It’s a tricky balance – you want to be responsive but you need to get things done. Here are a few tips on how to get it done:
- Schedule certain times to work uninterrupted. Maybe it’s a half hour twice a day or an hour a few times a week, or maybe it’s several hours to focus on a certain project that requires full concentration. Whatever it is, schedule the time and make a commitment to do your best to avoid interruptions.
- Turn off the bells and whistles. Silence your phone, turn off onscreen email notifications. Silence it all – personal and professional. Although you say you will ignore them and keep working, the only foolproof way to do so is to not even see it. Simply receiving the notification is an interruption, not just responding to it. It breaks your concentration, even if it’s only for a moment. Phones these days allow you to set certain calls to come through, so you can still be reached by your child’s school or others in an emergency.
- Leave your office. Book a conference room, go to a Starbucks where no one else from your office goes, find an empty cube on another floor, or try working at the library. The point is HIDE. Make it hard for your coworkers to interrupt you in person. They mean well but they are keeping you from what you need to do. If nothing else, close your door, if that’s an option, and put a sign up. It will stop all but the most intrepid or clueless!
- Drown out extraneous noise. If you work in an open office or cube, wear headphones, either listening to music or the noise cancelling kind. It may mean a bit of an investment for a really good pair but it will be well worth it if it makes you more productive. Other conversations and noise won’t be a problem and it also sends a signal to others that you are working and don’t want to be interrupted. We know someone who wore headphones and never listened to anything, just put them on, not to drown out noise but to send that message!
- Disconnect from wifi or other internet connections. It may not be enough to silence things, get totally off line if you want to be truly focused. If you need to do research or check some facts or figures online, put a placeholder in your document, make a list of everything you need to check and do it all together. It’s too tempting and too easy once you are on line to get distracted. One minute you’re cranking away at that report and the next you’re surfing the net. Consolidating your work related online research can help. Shutting off your connection also helps you avoid emails and other online interruptions.
Using these tips, we hope you can take back some control over your work life, avoid or at least minimize interruptions, and be more efficient and productive overall. It will require some commitment and discipline on your part, and you may find some people push back on not having instant access to you whenever and wherever at first, but in the end, the results will be worth it.