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8 Tips for Managing Interruptions and Distractions

Did you know that the typical office worker is interrupted, or switches tasks, an average of every three minutes and five seconds? Not only that, but after being interrupted, it can take as much as 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track! Many studies have confirmed this, including this one by Gloria Mark at the University of California.

As a leader, when it comes to managing your time, reducing interruptions and distractions is key. While interruptions are inevitable, there are ways you can limit interruptions, and the impact they have on your productivity. Here are a few things you can consider to help manage interruptions at work.

  • Doing a time study allows you to gain true insights into when and why your time is being hijacked. This allows you determine whether things like interruptions or meetings are necessary or not. When it comes to interruptions, knowing the type and frequency gives you an opportunity to plan for those interruptions you see most often. For example, if you notice your employees interrupt you to keep you in the loop on their progress, suggest scheduling a quick 15-min check-in and have your employees bring you up to speed at a time that is most convenient for you.

  • Often, in fact 44 percent of the time, people are interrupting themselves. Most of the time this is a result of technology. If you find your time falling victim to the dings and pings of notifications, consider turning your notifications off and scheduling times throughout the day where you will check your notifications. This will keep you from jumping up every time you get a new Facebook like or company newsletter.

  • If absolute concentration is needed, work in a location away from your desk where you are less likely to be interrupted. You can even put a sign on your office, such as “Working on a tight deadline. Please send me an email.”

  • Protect yourself from other types of interruptions, like environmental distractions. Close your office door or wearing headphones to block out conversations other people are having around you that may distract.

  • Determine if your physical workspace encourages distractions. For example, if you are facing the door and you find yourself distracted as others walk by, try facing away from the door so that your attention is not drawn away.

  • If you are in the middle of a task, learn to say no when people interrupt. Politely ask to speak with them at another time, and make sure you follow through.

  • Have closed office hours or designated open office hours. This communicates to your employees and co-workers when they should not disturb you and when they can.

  • Make sure you save electronic files and mark your place if you need to accept and interruption, so that you can easily return to that spot. This helps ensure your time is not wasted trying to remember what you were doing before the interruption occurred.


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