How to Handle Constant Interruptions in the Workplace

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 “If you ask people where they work the best, they rarely say the office” — Jason Fried

“The modern office has become an interruption factory. You can’t get work done at work anymore.” — Jason Fried

Summer in the office is always a joy. With fewer people around, the quiet allows you to finally get some work done. It feels like a library. Your train of thought may actually reach its final destination. But then what happens when the end of the year rush comes and the office is in full swing?

Is that project done yet? Can you email me that document? Well, it would be done if I weren’t being interrupted every five minutes. Hint, hint…

Set some boundaries:

  • Close your office door (if you have one) during peak thought moments.
  • Don’t take any calls – forward calls to voicemail
  • Ignore your email – close Outlook and turn off your phone
  • Find another place to work temporarily (the conference room usually has a door…).
  • Place a sign on your desk or cube that says, “On deadline, please no interruptions until [time].”
  • Wear earphones – you not only block out people they viably show that you aren’t available

But the culture at your workplace has to change. Which fires are the most important to fight on a daily basis? How do we as a company define “urgent” and “emergency”? What can wait? How will we train new employees in our new work ways, and how will we re-coach long-time employees? Should we have fewer meetings (hint: yes, yes and yes!). Which email threads should be “Reply all” vs. simply “Reply”?

How will your company provide the “space” for employees to do their best work?

TED TALK by Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work


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