If you work in an office, you probably deal with interruptions. Now, not all interruptions are bad–the whole point of working in an office with other people is so that interactions can occur. However, it is possible to get into a situation where your entire day is spent dealing with interruptions. If you need to cut down on the interruptions in your life, consider some of these methods.
1. No seating
If you have your own office, you might consider getting rid of the extra chairs. People are less likely to come in and stay for a long period of time if you don’t have a place to sit. You can keep a fold-up chair in a closet or behind your desk for situations where it is needed.
2. Uncomfortable seating
I have heard that some companies cut a few inches off the front legs of chairs in their complaint department waiting room. The chairs were uncomfortable, but it was subtle enough that people wanting to file a complaint didn’t realize why. It cut down on the number of people willing to wait. I’m not saying you should start hacking away at your office furniture, but it is worth making sure that you aren’t creating such a comfortable environment that no one would ever want to leave.
3. Pick up a pen
You’ve probably encountered the office worker who stops in several times a day just to chat and share the latest gossip. One of the best ways to deal with this is to get out a pen and paper and get ready to take notes. People are a lot less likely to spend 15 minutes on idle chatter if they think you are going to write it all down! For good measure, write their name at the top of the page.
4. Make it uncomfortable to interrupt you
I used to work with a guy named Clark whom I absolutely hated to interrupt. Clark would always work with his headphones on and I think he was just slightly hard of hearing. Whenever I needed to talk to Clark, he never could hear me. I’d call his name a few times with no response. When I finally got loud enough for him to hear me or tapped him on the shoulder, Clark would jump up out of his chair with surprise. This happened every single time. Everyone hated to interrupt him because they were worried that they might cause Clark to have a heart attack or something.
I’m not sure if I’d recommend trying this, but it sure was effective for Clark.
5. Busy Signals
If you work with a team where you can actually talk about interruptions, you might consider adopting some type of signaling system. When you are concentrating on something where it would take you a long time to get back into the right mindset, you turn the signal on. For example, some offices give everyone a cowboy hat. If someone is wearing the hat it means they are trying to focus, so don’t interrupt them unless it is an emergency. In another office, everyone had a yellow traffic cone that they would put on top of their cubicle.
For this to work, people need to use the the signal sparingly and not simply leave it on all day. This doesn’t work for all teams, but in some cases, it can be a great way to help shift distractions to the times when they don’t break your intense concentration.
Obviously not every strategy will work in every situation, so use some common sense before you try to apply anything mentioned here. Do you have a favorite strategy for dealing with interruptions? If so, please share it in the comments.