How To Minimize Interruptions

Don’t you hate it when you’re distracted by hallway traffic, chatty coworkers, and other things that break your concentration? Especially when you’re in The Zone?

Here are some helpful tips to minimize disruptions, even in your current cube layout.

  1. Physical Layout of the Workspace

    The actual arrangement of the furniture in your workspace can actually invite interruptions. If your desk faces a busy hallway, people are more likely to stop by and chat. Shifting around your furniture and placing subtle blockades in your entrance can reduce these incidental interruptions.

    1. Visitor’s Chair

      If you have a visitor’s chair, place it towards the entrance instead of next to your desk. It can actually act as a barrier to entry.

    2. Put a Curtain Across the Entrance

      Not very easy to do for some cube-dwellers, but it’s the ultimate barrier to entry; you’re literally blocking out the world.

    3. Put Desktop Computer on Desk

      Position your desktop computer so it blocks your face from the entrance. You’re less likely to be disrupted by traffic in your peripheral vision that way.

    4. Make the Entrance Smaller

      Sometimes your office manager can make your cube’s entrance smaller by extending a partition. This isn’t possible for all organizations though.

  2. Behavioral Patterns

    Sometimes, your own behavior may invite interruptions. If you’re a very open and friendly person, your coworkers are naturally going to turn to you for casual chit-chat. Take note of your behavior and try to determine which actions draw interruptions towards you. Then consciously change those behaviors when you’re busy, or try one of these suggestions.

    1. Use Signals

      You and your team can agree upon a common signal to let each other know when you’re unavailable. Some teams block out a block of “no interruptions” time. Others put up a flag on their monitor.

    2. Wear a Cap

      One such signal can be wearing a cap. Whenever you’re wearing your cap, no one can disturb you. Simple as that.

    3. Put up a “Busy” Sign Above Your Monitor

      Or you can be even more obvious. You can make this sign out of cardboard. This can help for non-team members from other departments.

    4. Earphones

      Contrary to popular opinion, earphones are NOT be a good idea, since you’re apt to be wearing them anyways. Most people are so used to seeing coworkers with earphones that they still will interrupt them.

  3. Be Assertive

    When all else fails, say “No.” That’s the most powerful word in the English language. Learn to say it politely and professionally. No.

  4. Visit Your Interrupter

    Or you can flip it around. When a coworker wants to chat, tell him/her that you’ll visit that person instead. By visiting your coworkers, you remain in control of your time. It’s also easier to decide when to end the conversation when you’re the visitor, as opposed to asking a visitor to leave your cube.

We’ve all been victims of interruptions. Sometimes they are welcome interruptions that break up a monotonous day. Sometimes, they’re important emergencies. Other times, we’re the ones interrupting!

But when you’re in The Zone and it’s Crunch Time, interruptions can waste valuable time & brain cycles. These simple techniques can help when you’re in one of those situations.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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