- Staff education
Many people may not be aware of the serious consequences interruptions and distractions have for productivity. For example, recall that multitasking is a myth, yet many people still try to do it, and some believe they are good at it.
- Physical spaces that are no-interruption zones
Designate a certain part of the office as a no-interruption zone. Allow staff to move there when they need to concentrate on a critical task. Ideally, the no-interruption zone should be a private office, as people in cubicles tend to get almost one-third more interruptions.[i]
- Do-not-disturb visual indicators
Establish visual signals for staff who are not to be interrupted. Get everyone’s commitment to respect these signals. These signals could be virtual, like a do-not-disturb status on a phone system. Signals could also be physical.
- Systematic solutions
Identify common sources of interruptions, then design solutions around that particular problem. For example, a larger finance office had one staff person who we’ll call Mary. Mary was regularly interrupted by questions from other departments because she gave the most helpful answers of all the finance staff. A systematic solution could be to play to Mary’s natural strengths. Mary’s role could be changed so that helping other departments becomes a primary job responsibility and not just a distraction.
Not all interruptions can be eliminated; therefore, an anti-interruption strategy should consider how to mitigate the negative impacts of an interruption when one does occur. A good checklist can help. A good checklist is not an exhaustive listing of everything that must be done to complete a task. Instead, a good checklist fits on one page and skips the obvious or unimportant steps. It focuses on the critical steps in a process that are likely to be overlooked and are not adequately checked by other mechanisms.[ii]
Another way to mitigate the effects of interruption is to prepare the workspace so it is optimally organized. This makes it easier to pick the task back up after an interruption.
Strategies to Reclaim your Time from Interruptions from Technology
- Audio or visual notifications of new email messages
Today, people do not often use email for urgent communications. Hence, it is not necessary to drop what you are doing to check messages.
- News notifications on your smartphone
Many applications push news alerts to our phones. This news is almost never so important that learning about it can’t wait.
- Set up temporary blocks for low-priority contacts
Smartphones can have customizable do-not-disturb settings, where the phone only notifies you of calls and messages from certain people. For example, you could create a setting that only notifies you of calls/messages from key elected officials.