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Dealing with Work Interruptions

Dealing with Work Interruptions

July 9, 2020

Whether working from home or in the office, work interruptions are inevitable. While sometimes they can be a welcome distraction, such as a quick conversation with a co-worker about an enjoyable subject, there are other times when you are deep in concentration and a distraction steers you off course. Distractions come in many forms: a text message alert on your phone, scrolling through social media mindlessly or just having someone talk you while you’re in the middle of working on something. Below we will look at some ways to minimize interruptions and how to reset when an interruption does happen so you can quickly get back to the task at hand.

Minimizing Interruptions and Distractions

To minimize interruptions you first need to think about what your main interruptions are and match a solution to that specific problem. For instance, if you are easily interrupted with text or personal email alerts on your phone, set it to silent for an extended period during your work hours and only have it alert you when you receive a phone call (which typically are more urgent and work related then texts are). If your problem is scrolling through social media when you are supposed to be working, give yourself a schedule. Instead of checking it when you’re simply bored, stick to a schedule that works for you. Perhaps that’s checking social media once or twice a day for a set number of minutes. Another common interruption is noisy coworkers. Either let them know ahead of time that you need to be focused and can’t be interrupted or simply put on a pair of headphones to signal to them you’re not in the mood to chat. Likewise, if you’re working from home and need to stay focused, let your family members know that you can’t get interrupted during your workday and ideally work in a room with a door you can close. While these are just some examples, think about what interruptions you deal with most often and a solution to that issue. Here is a great article if you need further help with this.

Getting Back on Track

As we said before, interruptions are inevitable so it’s also important to have solutions to help you quickly get back to your work. If you think it’s hard to get back into the zone after an interruption you’re not alone. There was a study from the University of California Irvine, that showed “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.” If you have multiple interruptions during your workday it can be hard to get all of your daily tasks done. One hack to quickly try and quickly refocus after an interruption is simply to give yourself 5 minutes. Instagram’s cofounder, Kevin Systrom, had a trick which is: “If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.” Another tip is to challenge yourself and see how quickly you can get back into the zone after an interruption. Have it be a game and see if you can get that 23 minutes and 15 second average down to 20 minutes, then 17, and so on. 

We all deal with interruptions while working and these disruptions not only decrease our productivity but also increase our stress. Think about what your most common distractions are during your workday and put some measures in place to mitigate these distractions and if that fails, try the above tricks to get back to the task at hand faster.

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