It is estimated that out of every hour people spend 20 minutes on unplanned interruptions. These interruptions at work are costly, especially as changing from one type of task to another takes time to reset your mind. The time it takes to reconstitute your focus after the interruption can last longer than the interruption itself.
Switching gears from one type of a task to another and back again diminishes your effectiveness and velocity with which you work. This is true of all types of interruptions, including email, phone calls, and social media. So how can someone who wears multiple hats avoid multitasking at the wrong times and instead keep their focus and get their jobs done. Here are a few tips.
Turn it Off!
Many interruptions come in the form of email. Email interruptions are especially problematic. If you’ve ever been around an open jar of candy, you know how you might intend to only have one, but before you know it, you’ve eaten half of the jar. Email is the same way. You may think you’re just going to look at one unopened email that just came in, but in reality you’re more likely to look at another email, or check Facebook or start to browse the internet now that you’re looking at your computer screen. The best way to combat this is to turn it off all together. Designate certain times of the day for emailing and catching up on social media. The rest of the day you should keep it off. To this end, there are a few tools to help you keep your focus.
Online distraction busters
Self-Control – an app to prevent you from straying from your work by temporarily blocking internet access to sites you put on a blacklist, some ideas might be Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest!
Isolator – helps you concentrate by covering up your desktop and all its icons so that you can just focus on the task at hand.
Freedom – like other apps in this space, Freedom prevents you from going on the internet. Unlike some of the other apps, Freedom makes it harder to cheat, as if you want to override the program, you’ll need to reboot your computer.
Change your work hours
Go into the office early and leave early or go in late and stay late, if being their earlier or later when fewer people are there makes it easier for you to focus. However you do it, set aside some hours for uninterrupted work. Let people know if they need you, your “office hours” begin after a certain time.
Apply yourself to the situation
Sometimes all you need is a little awareness and willingness to take care of the situation. Now that you know that interruptions are not always a necessary evil, nor are they a sign that you are important and busy, but instead they are undermining your effectiveness at work, pay special attention to finding that uninterrupted time. Silence your phone. Turn off your email. Close your door. Ask people to hold their questions until a certain time. When unavoidable interruptions do happen, do all you can to keep them brief. Don’t invite the person interrupting you to sit down, let them know you are in the middle of something and only have a couple minutes and can help them more later.
Over time you may find that all the interruptions aren’t as urgent as the person interrupting thought at that moment. By stopping yourself from constantly tending to false urgent matters, you can instead focus your attention on the important tasks.
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