How To Avoid Time-Wasting Interruptions

Published: October 30, 2012
By: Faye Hollands

Did you know that it can take up to 25 minutes to get back into the same flow of focus and productivity after someone interrupts you?  If you work in a ‘typical’ office where you’re dealing with interruptions on a regular basis just imagine how much time is being wasted each and every day dealing with these distractions!  If your hours are getting longer and your stress levels are rising it’s important that you manage interruptions effectively – here’s how…

Leave Me Alone

According to studies the average person deals with 60-70 interruptions per day, and the University of California found that 11 minutes is the maximum amount of continuous, uninterrupted time we have during our working day!

When you combine that with the fact that it can take almost half an hour to get back into ‘the zone’ after you’ve been interrupted, it’s not difficult to see how these distractions can play major havoc on your productivity.

Lapses in concentration, poor results and less job satisfaction are just a few of the ramifications of constant interruptions, so before you just accept that it’s part and parcel of your working environment, take a look at my tips to reduce this time wasting pitfall and see how you can easily start getting some precious time and focus back: –

  1. Turn your email alert off: you really can live without seeing what emails have come in each and every second of the day – most jobs don’t depend on this acute timing so quit the dependency and switch it off!
  2. Turn your mobile to silent: most interruptions are actually self-initiated so when you need to focus make sure you reduce your own distractions
  3. Divert your phone to voicemail: contrary to popular belief, most people do NOT need to be on constant call – divert and increase your focus and attention
  4. Log Out: close down your internet browser and log out of all social media – again, these are self-inflicted distractions so time to have a bit more self-control
  5. Earphones in: an easy starter to avoid other people interrupting you is to pop some earphones in – it’s like a corporate code that says “leave me alone”
  6. Move out: if the earphones don’t work, book a meeting room, sit with your back to the internal window and shut the door – most people will think twice before barging in
  7. Avoid meetings: do you really need to attend every meeting in your diary?  Probably not.  Don’t just accept something that needs changing – suggest a solution and free up that time in your diary
  8. Toughen up: if you’re in the habit of being accessible and letting Joe Bloggs rant on every time he passes your desk, you’re guilty of aiding and abetting his interruptions.  To change this habit start off by avoiding eye contact, and make it immediately clear when you’re in the middle of a piece of work that you can’t talk by cutting the conversation dead and saying something like “I can’t talk right now Joe, I’ll come back to you later on today when I’ve finished this piece of work”.  Easily done, very effective in most cases, and if you keep it up your new-found tactic will become a habit for both parties.
  9. Educate: if you’re constantly being interrupted by questions from colleagues it’s your job to educate those people on how to find the answers themselves instead of asking you.  Take some time to teach them and the interruptions will be reduced, if not eliminated.
  10. Change your environment: don’t leave interesting gizmos and gadgets on your desk that invite inquisitive minds to chat, and remove any comfy chairs nearby – don’t give anyone an excuse to stop and linger!

As you can see, most interruptions are actually well within your own control, so if you’re stressed and lacking time it’s important you take responsibility for what’s going on around you and start making some simple changes that can have a major impact on your productivity and effectiveness.

Is there anything else you do to manage interruptions well? Post a comment below – I’d love to know!

Faye Hollands

About Faye Hollands

Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success. To receive weekly articles to improve your career, business and time management skills click here or book your Free Focus Session here.

You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email

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