Stop interruptions at work

Stop interruptions at work

Interruptions aren’t unavoidable. By adopting new habits, you can dramatically cut the number of times during the workday that you have to stop what you are working on and then try to regain your focus later.

Various studies have shown that employees can be lucky to work for 15 minutes without an interruption, and returning to the original task can take up to 25 minutes. Interruptions can eat up more than a quarter of the workday, according to a study by the information technology research firm Basex.

Reclaim your workday with these practices:

  • Preempt interruptions. Block the sources of your interruptions. If team members pop into your office to talk or they send numerous emails throughout the day, set specific, brief times to meet with them. Then they can wait to talk with you, knowing when you will be available, and you can give them your full attention during those times.
  • Eliminate distractions. One recent study found that completing a task took a third longer when people were interrupted by email. So turn off email new message alerts, or close the program when you aren’t using it. If people frequently come to your office, close the door or put up a sign when you need to concentrate. Example: “I’m working on an important project right now. Unless you need to discuss an urgent matter, please email or come back after 1 p.m.” Working from another area for a few hours—a conference room, your home or even the public library—can ensure that you aren’t distracted by the usual interruptions in your office.
  • Be less accommodating. Maintain control of your time even if someone does interrupt you. Resist the temptation to deal with the interruption immediately and set aside what you were working on. For example, ask your colleague, “Can we discuss this in an hour?”

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