You sit down to write the proposal you’ve been putting off for two weeks. As soon as you get started, you get notified of a new Slack message. An interruption. Back to work for 10 minutes; you’re finally in a groove when you get a text from your friend about dinner plans. Another interruption. Back to writing the proposal for 15 minutes, and you get an email notification that your 3 PM meeting has been moved to 3:15.
With all these interruptions, how are you supposed to get any work done?
You are not alone.
Technology notifications and, for many who are still working from home, barking dogs, requests from family members, and ringing doorbells make it nearly impossible to find uninterrupted time to focus on your most difficult work.
HOW CAN YOU MANAGE THE INTERRUPTIONS?
Interruptions fall into one of three categories: unnecessary, necessary, or untimely.
1. Unnecessary interruptions waste your time. Spending 30 minutes discussing your latest Netflix binge with a colleague or gossiping over the messy background on your boss’s Zoom is completely unproductive. Instead, save these conversations for downtime when you’re taking a break.
2. Necessary interruptions have value and should be addressed immediately. Sometimes you are interrupted for something really important – even more important than on what you are working. This is a good interruption…the “Fire” as opposed to the “Fire Drill.” These necessary interruptions force you to prioritize at a moment’s notice.
3. Untimely interruptions are necessary but can be handled at another time. For example, a colleague pings you for some data for a report she needs to submit by the end of the week. The proposal you’re working on needs to be sent out before the end of the day. Ideally, you want to reschedule with your co-worker for a more appropriate time.
It is important to communicate clearly and respectfully to the person trying to engage you in any of these situations. It isn’t always ‘what you say’ but ‘how you say it’ that matters most.
HOW CAN YOU GET YOUR WORK DONE?
All of this is nice, but the interruptions are still getting in your way. The suggestions above will reduce the amount of time spent on interruptions but won’t eliminate them.
What can you do to tackle the hard work that requires you to focus for the greatest amount of uninterrupted time? Here are three strategies for finding the quiet time you need to get it done:
1. Block out time in your schedule earlier or later in the workday when there tend to be fewer interruptions.
2. Turn off notifications on the phone, messaging apps, and email. Maybe go into “airplane mode’ for an hour.
3. Close all browsers.
Experiment with what works best for you. It will take some trial and error, but the results will be worth it!