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Four Ways to Minimize Interruptions and Distractions

We are bombarded by interruptions and distractions all day long. They affect our focus and cause us to lose time getting back up to speed. If we can increase our productivity by just six minutes each day, we’ll increase our productivity by 24 hours each year. That’s three days of production this year over last! Imagine what it would feel like to have three days of work off your desk right now.

Quelling the Noise

Interruptions and distractions come at you from all angles. Some are self-imposed. Others are produced by others. Still others are the product of the workspace itself. Here are some ways to reduce the ones most often found in a modern work environment:

* Face Away from Office Traffic. Most people setup their workspace to face towards people passing by. Consider changing your position to face away from that traffic. There are two reasons for this. First, our eyes are attracted to movement. Consequently, our attention flickers up to those passing by. Even if it’s just for a moment, that’s an unnecessary interruption. Second, something far worse can happen – you make eye contact and into your workspace the passerby comes! This results in a complete interruption from what you were doing. A secondary benefit to facing away from traffic is that as people pass by, they see you working – giving further evidence to how productive you are.

* Establish “Office Hours.”To the extent that others report to you, establish times of the day that you are either available (like a college professor) or unavailable (a door-close work period.) If you choose available hours, this is when subordinates can come to you with questions. It forces them to gather together the various things they need your help on and allows you to process them as a batch together. If you choose unavailable hours, these should be used to accomplish those tasks/projects that require your utmost focus. Note, when you come out from behind that closed door, be sure to return e-mails and voice mails as soon as possible.

* Stand When Someone Enters Your Workspace. Some interruptions are inevitable – true urgency, your boss comes in, etc. In that event, we need to find ways to minimize the effect of the distraction. If you stand when someone comes into your workspace, the other person won’t sit down. They’ll feel a sense of urgency themselves – to leave! It’s a great trick to move things along without saying a single word.

* Move Your Physical Inbox Away from Your Workspace. People put things into your inbox all the time. If you’re like most, you keep that inbox close to your desk. This results in an unintended but significant interruption. Find a new place for it. If it can’t easily leave your workspace, place it in a manner that minimizes the distraction – near the door or behind you if you’re now facing away from traffic. Not all interruptions can be eliminated but their effects can be reduced which is still a positive result.

May the Quietest Space Win!

The key to good productivity is focus. The more time you spend focusing on the task at hand, the more you will get done. Not only will increased productivity make you feel more accomplished, a quieter workspace will lower your stress level. It’s a win-win proposition.