Managing Interruptions at Work

On our jobs, we all like to be social and engage in conversations, exchange ideas and learn from each other.  And its not a hidden fact that most of us are not working all 8 hours of the day assuming you have a 9 to 5 job. But how do you keep the socializing aspect of your job from taking over your main objective to be at your job? I am sure everyone has that one or two co-workers who do not have any respect for your time and they want all your attention. I find that one of the most difficult things to get right sometimes is managing interruptions from co-workers.

Either we want to be too friendly and want to be available to them at the expense of our work and time or we become too distant and cannot really take advantage of each other’s abilities. I have been working on coming up with strategies to handle these situations for sometime now and would like to share some that have worked for me and I am interested in hearing what you do at your job so that you find enough time to finish your work and meet deadlines.

One of the best changes I made was to start holding meetings in colleagues’ offices. When someone comes in your office, you talk about your work or the projects for some time but the conversation usually moves on to less work and more personal stuff, about family or office parties or about other colleagues, the politics and before you knew more time got spent on talking about stuff that doesn’t need to be talked about at the time we are meeting to discuss work. So by offering to meet them in their office, I have the flexibility of leaving when I am done discussing work.

For the colleague who keeps his or her cell phone ringer on high and listens to their voice mails on speaker phone, you could talk to them in a nice and diplomatic manner that you could hear their voice mail message and may be they should be worried about the privacy of their conversations. I usually walk away from my office to carry on the conversation if I feel there are people around who could hear me. What do you do?

Majority of us have voice mail enabled phone systems. I used to answer every single impromptu phone call even when I was in the middle of something very important. And many times those calls were not ‘urgent’ and could have waited. I have had to train myself to not answer the phone right away and let the caller leave a message. This gives me time to finish what I am working on at the moment and get back to the caller if it is necessary and work related, or wait to get back to them at a more convenience time if it was just a social phone call.

Learning to stay focused by minimizing interruptions at the job is an ongoing process. The most difficult aspect of this is that you are the only one monitoring yourself. Self monitoring can be a very difficult process in itself. It requires a lot of discipline and lot of honesty. What are your experiences in minimizing interruptions and staying focused at your job?

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