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3 Ways to Minimize Interruptions to Keep Your Focus

By Audrey Thomas, CSP a.k.a. Organized Audrey – September 2016

Interruptions are all around us. Research shows that on average, we spend about three minutes on a task before an interruption occurs. Three minutes. Is it any wonder why we’re finding it difficult to get things done? Here are ideas and strategies in three areas to help reduce interruptions and increase your focus.

Shut off electronic notifications

Email notification sounds and symbols include chimes and dings as well as those obnoxious balloons that pop up in the lower right-hand corner of your computer screen. These alerts get a response 70% of the time within six seconds, which is faster than letting your phone ring three times. In other words, they are very effective in interrupting your focus. Go into the Settings area of either Lotus Notes or Outlook to shut these off once and for all.

Appointment reminders are another form of electronic interruption. Most appointments on your calendar do not require a reminder. So when possible, shut this feature off. If you want to shut them off altogether, you can do so in your calendar’s settings area.

Cell phones interrupt us with beeps, vibrations and flashing lights. Adjusting these particular settings will go a long way in removing unnecessary interruptions. You’ll need to decide how badly you want to be interrupted when a text arrives, or you’ve missed a call or someone is now following you on Twitter.

Reduce interruptions from others

Since many of our interruptions are from co-workers, it’s helpful to let them know when you need uninterrupted time. The easiest way to do this is to provide a signal such as a simple “Do Not Disturb” sign. If you want to have some fun, use yellow Caution tape strung across your office door.

Rearranging your office so you are not facing the door is another way to gain focus and reduce interruptions. When you face the entrance to your office it is quite easy to make eye contact with those walking by. And eye contact is sometimes perceived by others as an invitation to stop in.

The third way to reduce interruptions from others is to shut off instant messaging. Most companies do not require this tool to be used so opting out or simply shutting it off will allow you greater focus and less interruptions.

Clean up your physical space

Clutter is a distraction so having a messy office will only contribute to having less focus. Take time to sort and purge stacks of paper sitting on, under or around your desk. If you’ve got “stuff” that’s been taking up space, find a home for it. You might also have personal items in your office such as lunch dishes that need to be taken home.

Secondly, exit (not just minimize) all computer programs except the one needed to work on a specific project. This will provide better opportunity for focus and less temptation to jump between projects.

Interruptions are part of office atmospheres and it seems like they’ll always be there. But being proactive in minimizing them will help you take control of your personal productivity by creating an environment that is more peaceful and conducive to getting more done. 

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