Hold All My Calls

Hold My Calls

Interruptions are rampant. The average person gets interrupted about once every eight minutes. Many times disruptions come via technology, such as emails, texts, phone calls or other e-messages. Because interruptions are “productivity poison,” minimizing them is a worthy goal. However, since most people need to stay connected to technology to get work done, this can be difficult.

If interruptions and distractions are inhibiting your focus…

The idea here is to block the interruptions from ever reaching you. Yes, you will temporarily be “unreachable,” but the payoff of an offline work session can be worth it. Try to:

  • Turn off unnecessary electronic devices. Obviously you can’t turn off a device you are working on, but you can turn off the cell phone if you are working on the computer. And ask yourself if you could do some portion of the work with a pen and paper so you could turn it all off.
  • Turn off alerts. You can temporarily change your settings so you don’t see emails, texts and messages coming in. You can also turn off the ringer on a landline phone. To silence a cell phone, put it across the room on a piece of fabric so you don’t hear the “buzz.”

Are you your own worst enemy because you can’t resist checking to see if you have a message? If you are easily distractible…

  • Work where there is poor/no wifi or cell service. If you need to focus on writing or reading, go in a conference room or to a place where it would be difficult to access the internet. Places such as these aren’t always easy to find, but if you can identify one, consider it a secret ‘get away.’
  • Set your computer so that you don’t “auto log-in” to sites. Require yourself to re-enter your name and password each time you log on. The time it takes to enter (and perhaps find) the appropriate passwords may be a sufficient hurdle to keep you from checking.
  • Use a “work only” browser and another for social/fun. When you are working, only open the work browser.

Part of the reason we are drawn to interruptions is because we are naturally curious. We have a low-level anxiety about “missing out,” so it is important to make a plan to stay productive while not stressing out.

  • Set an amount of time that is reasonable for you to stay focused. It may be 15 minutes, it may be an hour… it’s different for everyone. Consider setting up a visual/analog clock or timer (e.g. the TimeTimer) so you can see how much time you have left before you can check your notifications.
  • Allow yourself a 5 minute break to check all of your messages and social media. If you come across anything requiring a response, promptly address anything requiring less than 2 minutes, and schedule a time in your day to come back to those requiring more time.

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The downside of 24 hour connectivity is 24 accessibility – a situation that isn’t likely to change. Maximizing productivity means managing our environment in a way that fits our proclivities, strengths and needs.

What tricks have you found successful for minimizing interruptions and staying focused?

18 thoughts on “Hold All My Calls”

    1. Thanks Janine. Somehow knowing I can “check” in 10 minutes helps me stay focused. It is a very challenging work environment where the very center of our work is the also the source of our interruptions… tricky!

  1. These are definitely true. I find that I’m productive in writing when I’m not online. Usually even when my intention is to write a blog post, I tend to check FB and other sites first. Hmf. I have 24/7 access to the internet so it’s hard not to get tempted. But if I’m really exhausted from work, I don’t usually access the PC anymore. I just access my phone to check some updates for a while.

    1. Sometimes I do best on an airplane- no free wifi and virtually nothing else to do. In the good old days, I used to just go to the library- that doesn’t work anymore:(

  2. I got a new phone over the weekend and I had to go into the settings countless times because I was getting notifications for EVERYTHING! At all hours of the day. Even with the sound off.
    I think I have found my rhythm since.. but it was a nice reminder that I don’t like to hear every update on social media.

    1. I hate notifications. Whenever I join a new group, seems like they want to send me notifications all say long. We all need time that isn’t plagued with distractions!!!

  3. Hello!
    A wonderful post with lots of great tips! My favorite is the “turn off alerts”- this tip has helped me so much and has gotten me to stop following up on these alerts each time I get one. Thanks!

    1. It is surprising how powerful those little alerts are to attract our attention, Amy. From the moment “you’ve got mail” first appeared, it has shown how easily our focus can be interrupted. We just can’t resist seeing what it is:) Thanks for stopping by, and glad you liked the tips!

    1. Seems to be getting harder and harder to block these distractions out. I was surprised at how productive I was on a recent flight… who knew that a little “no wifi” time could help me get so much done!

  4. Great tips Seana! I’m finding it increasing difficult to eliminate distractions when I blog. When I’m on the computer I hop from one thing to the next. Email tends to suck up a ton of my time. I need to start implementing some of these strategies so I can get things accomplished. I try to limit my time on certain tasks, but I usually always go over the time allotted.

    1. I often go over my allotted time as well, Dawn. The computer distractions are incredibly powerful. I don’t think we fully understand them yet as the technology is evolving so quickly. It will be interesting to see how our society and culture change as a result of this new environment. In the meantime, I say use whatever tricks you can to stay focused:)

  5. I actually just did some of these these last few days because they were set apart days for my family. I didn’t get on the computer for blogging reasons at all and I didn’t really do any social media either. I don’t get phone calls often or even text messages except from my husband or 2 good friends so the phone doesn’t pose as too big of a distraction. 🙂 I shared this on my fan page. I think everyone could use these tips. Great post!

    1. Way to go, Brittnei! So glad you got some good, peaceful, focused time. Thank you so much for sharing this out on your fan page. I hope many can get a break from distractions:)

  6. I can tell when I’m having a dull day at work by the state of my cell phone battery. One thing that helps me keep it under control and keep me focused on my work is a .99 cent pencil box. I put my phone in the box and set it to the side of my desk. That sends a message to my brain that it is in a “time out” and I can get some stuff done. I call it “setting fences”. Works well for dieting too – if I put the cookies and other goodies in a difficult to reach cupboard, I’m much less likely to eat them. #SITSSharefest

    1. Oh, I love this idea of “setting fences.” And isn’t it amazing how powerful a small trick like that can be? Just making it difficult to grab and check can really be a deterrent. I hope my readers read this comment:)

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