You woke up with great intentions, didn’t you? You were planning to grab a cup of coffee and tackle your entire to-do list. Today you were going to be so productive…until you got interrupted, over and over again.
Interruptions in the form of telephone calls, e-mails, co-workers, text messages and snack and bathroom breaks stop us in our tracks. We hear that beep on our phone and suddenly lose focus on whatever else we were doing.
Did you know that it takes an average of 25 minutes to regain concentration on a task after an interruption occurs? (Gloria Mark, professor of informatics at University of California, Irvine)
If you are interrupted just three times a day, you lose over an hour of productive work time. Imagine how much time you lose if you have to deal with 12 interruptions a day. Half of your work day! All that time you planned to spend getting through items on your to-do list is lost.
Often, we cannot control the source or timing of interruptions. We do, however, have the power to minimize them. Yes, we have power and some of that power involves our own willpower.
Try these simple strategies to manage interruptions.
Before you check your e-mail or answer voicemail in the morning, spend at least 30 minutes working on an “urgent” task. If you are interrupted later in the day, you will at least have a jump start on your most important project.
Turn your phone on silent or Do Not Disturb, especially when you are trying to beat a deadline. If you must answer the phone, don’t just say, “Hi. Crystal speaking.” “Hello, this is Crystal, how may I help you?” will prompt the caller to tell you the purpose of the call and minimize opportunities for endless small talk.
Work in intervals of 30-45 minutes, allowing yourself a scheduled 5-10 minute break in between to grab a snack, run to the bathroom or check voicemail. When you set aside time to take care of the necessities, you are more likely to stay focused knowing there is an upcoming mental break in the near future.
Avoid playing phone tag by scheduling phone call appointments. Then, you won’t need to drop what you’re doing when you finally get the call from someone you have been trying to get in touch with for the past week. Prepare an agenda prior to each phone call or meeting so participants don’t waste time trying to determine what the key issues are.
If possible, set up your desk or work space away from the kitchen. You won’t be tempted to take frequent snack breaks, and if other people work with you, they won’t stop at your desk to chat when they are on their way to or from picking up their own snacks or coffee.
Set expectations with clients, co-workers and vendors. Tell them what you are working on and when it will be completed. Hopefully, they’ll understand your declaration to mean that they shouldn’t contact you for a status update every hour.
Establish rules to filter your e-mail. Stop your daily deals from showing up in your Inbox so they don’t distract you from your work. Wait until your lunch break or until the end of the day to check your fun folders.
Keep your desk organized and don’t put personal items on your desk. That picture of your mom just might inspire you to call her. Although she would appreciate the call, doing so would interrupt your productivity. Focus on work at work, and call your mom later.
When someone walks into your office or workspace, stand up. People are less likely to sit down and talk your ear off if you don’t stay seated. If they don’t get the hint, start walking toward the restroom. If you work from home and someone rings your doorbell, step outside to continue the conversation. It’s easier to get a guest to leave if she isn’t invited inside.
Interrupt yourself. This is when willpower becomes important. If you find that your habit of scrolling social media posts or shopping online is the main reason you’re losing focus on work related tasks, walk away from what you are doing for 5 minutes. For the most part, social media is much like a soap opera. Without seeing it for several days or months, you can still go back to it and find out what you missed in a matter of minutes. Keep that in mind when you’re tempted to start scrolling. If you are totally desperate, try an app like Rescue Time to help you track your productivity and block sites that cause you to get distracted.
What strategies have you tried to minimize interruptions?
Crystal Sabalaske, professional organizer and owner of Cluttershrink, has been helping people get organized in their homes and offices since 2002. She has appeared on several episodes of HGTV’s series, Mission: Organization, and her organizing tips have appeared in national publications such as Family Fun, Parents, and Women’s Health magazines.
Crystal’s philosophy about organizing involves making simple changes based on an individual’s needs at work and at home. While she is committed to getting job done, she’s not at all serious and tries infuse the process of organizing with a little bit of fun.
Being organized saves time, money, and relationships, and when you maximize the potential in those aspects of your life, you have more time to focus on doing things that truly make you happy. For Crystal, those activities involve singing, reading, taking walks, spending time with her family, making up twisted tunes, brainstorming about her next business idea, and drinking iced tea.
In addition to hands-on home and office organizing, Crystal shares her passion for organizing by offering virtual coaching for individuals and workshops for business and social groups. She also offers relocation organizing services and thinks that after moving 18 times, she knows what it takes to get the job done right. If you really want to get Crystal fired up, just ask her to speak about organizing your kitchen for food allergies. She helps her family manage 19 of them!