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5 Tips For Managing Interruptions At Work

by Elizabeth Harmon
Posted: April 03, 2016

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These days, there seem to be so many different demands on our concentration that can affect our productivity. 

Not only do we have to contend with people going about their own business around us, but also phone calls, email notifications, text messages and a myriad of other notifications that our mobile phones make a noise for.

Time management can feel impossible with so many interruptions, so how do you manage to sit down and concentrate on your work with all of this going on around you?

Here are 5 tips for managing interruptions at work to avoid succumbing to distractions when you’re trying to get things done.

1. Switch your phone off!

Managing interruptions - interruptions at work

This sounds like a drastic measure, but switching your phone off (or at least to airplane mode or onto silent) may well be the biggest time management tip anyone can ever give you.

If you have something you need to get done today, switch your phone off for a couple of hours. If you’re worried about offending people by not responding to them, then by all means send a message out beforehand to tell them what you’re doing.

2. Avoid multitasking

Multitasking is a myth; it doesn’t exist. When you think you’re multitasking, what you’re actually doing is switching backwards and forwards between tasks. Each time you move from one to the other, it takes you time to get back into what you’re doing, wasting valuable time. Instead, focus on just one job at a time and you’ll find that you get it done much more quickly.

Looking for more helpful job tips? Get expert career advice at the Open Colleges Careers Blog.

3. Close other browser windows

Another big work interruption is social media. It’s easy to think that you’ll just quickly check your Facebook timeline, or send a tweet to someone, however that never seems to happen. Before you know it, you’ve lost 10 minutes looking at someone else’s holiday photos and your task is no closer to being finished.

Plan ahead If you have a tight deadline to hit, planning ahead is the best way to manage interruptions. Make sure the people around you know you’re working on this task; perhaps even go so far as to put a “do not disturb” sign on your desk or monitor.

4. Change locations

Change locations

When you sit at your desk, there are often hundreds of other work interruptions around you, from team mates, desk ornaments and visitors.

Find a different work space where there will be fewer distractions. Is there a library nearby, or perhaps a café, or a spare meeting room? Taking your work to a different location can work wonders for ensuring you are able to sit and concentrate without constant interruptions.

5. Be firm

If you’ve done all of this and colleagues are still interrupting you, it’s important to be firm rather than getting cross.

Practise saying things like “thanks so much for coming to chat, but I’m in the middle of something right now, can I come and find you when I’m done?”, or perhaps “Please could you give me an hour to get this done and then I will be happy to help you.” If you are able to manage interruptions in this way without losing your cool, people will respect your request.

There will always be distractions and interruptions when working, but we hope these 6 tips will help you to minimise and manage them, so you can concentrate and get your work done. Do you have any other tips to add? Leave us a comment below.


Looking for more advice to help you accelerate your career? Learn how to use your interpersonal skills to land the job of your dreams here


Elizabeth Harmon

Elizabethis an experienced Freelance Social Media Consultant based in the south of England. She works with a growing number of clients all around the world, showing businesses how to use social media more effectively and helping them to get the maximum benefit from it.

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