Eliminate interruptions for better concentration

Interruptions abound—a co-worker drops by to chat, the phone rings, and your boss sends you an email to handle something, pronto—all at the same time.  With a flurry of activity, you respond to these various demands.  All prove to be low priority, and an hour later, you return to your initial task, your energy waning.  You decide you’ll work on the project in the afternoon, when your energy picks up again.  Of course, after lunch, there’s some crisis, and after fielding a volley of phone calls and unscheduled visits from co-workers, the day ends, and the project is yet again unfinished. 

You’ve lost your momentum.  Much like your car has to work harder to accelerate from a complete stop, so does your brain.  Although interruptions are a normal (and sometimes desirable) part of our work experience, there are times when it’s helpful to defend against them.

So try to eliminate distractions when you need to concentrate on a difficult task.  It’s hard to get much done when someone or something is bugging you. It’s a major problem in most offices, particularly in those with open-plan architecture. If people aren’t talking or walking around, they’re coming directly to you to chit-chat. If they don’t come personally, they call you or send you email. This is fine for occasional socializing or if you’re working with someone on something, but at times it might be necessary to set limits on the chatting. This isn’t much of a problem when you have your own office; you can shut the door, and even lock it if necessary. If you’re stuck in a cubicle, however, there’s not much you can do to stop people from coming by, or even from parking themselves outside your cubicle and holding a long discussion with someone else. Try slipping on some noise canceling headphones to drown out the antics of passersby or your neighbor. People are less likely to interrupt you when you’re wearing a headset.  I’m not sure why this is but it’s true.  Just don’t get any eye contact. This can create a little privacy without seeming too unfriendly. Similarly, you can send your calls to voicemail and close your email program to give yourself some time to focus without getting distracted.

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