Breaking the Flow: Navigating Interruptions in the Workplace

Interruptions are a common occurrence in the workplace and they can range from a quick chat with a colleague to a major crisis that demands immediate attention. Regardless of their nature, interruptions can derail our productivity and make it challenging to refocus. It is said that after being interrupted, it can take up to 21 minutes for us to get back on course. 

In order to maintain productivity, it is crucial to learn how to deal with interruptions effectively to minimize their impact and get back on track as quickly as possible. In this blog, we'll explore some strategies for dealing with interruptions in the workplace and how to refocus your attention on the task at hand.

Why do interruptions happen?

It’s important to accept that interruptions will happen. However, to best navigate the world of interruptions we have to understand why they happen. Here are a few reasons why they happen:

  1. Lack of clear communication and expectations: When roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined or communicated, it can lead to confusion and interruptions as people try to figure out who should be doing what.

  2. Poor time management: If someone doesn't manage their time effectively, they may end up rushing to complete tasks at the last minute, leading to a greater likelihood of interruptions.

  3. Urgent or unexpected tasks: Sometimes emergencies or urgent tasks come up that require immediate attention and cannot be ignored.

  4. Poorly designed workspaces: A workspace that is noisy, cramped, or lacks privacy can be distracting and lead to interruptions.

  5. Technology: Notifications, emails, and instant messages can all be sources of interruptions if not managed properly.

  6. Lack of boundaries: If someone is always available and never sets boundaries around when they are available for interruptions, it can lead to a culture of constant interruptions. 

Strategies for reducing interruptions.

A simple way to reduce the amount of interruptions is to ask your colleagues if the matter is urgent. If not, simply state you will find time to discuss the question or concern at a later time. If you find these non-urgent interruptions become more and more frequent, it’s important you set your boundaries. 

Suggest putting in place a system. One suggestion is to ask your colleagues to write out their list of questions or concerns that come about throughout the workday or workweek and schedule a time to connect to go through them together at a more appropriate time.

Another easy way to set boundaries and reduce interruptions is to practice time blocking. Time blocking is a great way to organize your days, maintain productivity and reduce unnecessary disruptions. It involves blocking out your day, yes your entire day, with specific tasks. When you time block your work day, you are letting your colleagues know when you are available for interruptions and when you need time to focus on important tasks. Start by blocking out 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon to deal with any urgent matters that come up and adjust as needed. Although we aren’t always great at practicing time blocking, it sure makes a difference in our overall productivity when we do! 

For more about time blocking, check out our Value of Time blog post!

Interruptions are an inevitable part of our workday, but they don't have to completely derail our productivity. By understanding the reasons why interruptions occur, taking steps to minimize them, and implementing time blocking strategies, we can better manage interruptions and improve our focus and efficiency. Remember, it's important to set boundaries, communicate effectively, and prioritize our tasks to ensure we achieve our goals and meet deadlines. 

With practice, we can develop the skills and habits necessary to effectively manage interruptions and stay on track towards success.

“Stop letting other people hijack your day.”
 - Frank Sonnenberg, Soul Food:Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

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