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.
SET A TIMER
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?