How I deal with constant interruption at work

Back in late 2013, my group at work was moved to a new location in another building. This new location has more space so we could all be in one place. Unfortunately, with us all being together in one place, the amount of interruption that happens now is at an all time high. Each one of these interruptions by themselves isn't a big deal, but when you take them all together, it ends up being a lot of lost productivity. Here is how I deal with each type of interruption.

E-mail - This is the interruption that happens most often. I get about 75 E-mails every workday. I decided to deal with it in several ways. 1. I started to only check E-mail once and hour. Since I'm using Outlook I just turn on the "Work Off-line" feature. I turn it off at the beginning of every hour to sync my E-mail. 2. I developed an Inbox Zero habit. That is, whenever I check my E-mail, I process all E-mail in my Inbox. Some of it gets turned into tasks with a follow up date and time, other mail gets move to my archive or straight to delete items. In order to accomplish this I have created "rules" that take action depending on the content of the E-mail.

Phone - I will admit that I only get a few phone calls a week. However a phone call is enough to take you out of the context of whatever you're working on. This one is really difficult because I want to be available on the phone, however it seems that my company has given contact information for us to marketing companies. So I get calls from folks asking about how I manage my retirement. I've gotten cold called from folks asking me about AT&T U-verse. By the way, I don't know how their service is, but their marketing sucks. I wouldn't sign up for their service on that basis alone. I also get calls from my mortgage company. I'll admit this is my fault because I gave them my work number as my daytime number. Here is a rule for you. Never give your work phone number out to anybody if it isn't work related. So the first way I tried dealing with the problem was to call the IT department and asking if there was a way to block phone numbers based on Caller ID. They told me that the only thing they could do for me was to change my phone number. That was very tempting but instead, I decided to deal with it by turning on the forward to voice mail feature of my phone. Then I deal with all voice mails right after lunch.

Instant Message - I get an instant message several times a day. I've found that having your instant message client up at work just contributes to people being lazy. So instead of getting up from their desk and coming over to talk to you, they send you an instant message. My solution is to just leave it off all day.

Stopping By - I get people visiting me several times a day. Out of the last 14 days of work, I got 45 visits. Only about 12 of them were work related. This one was really exacerbated by us moving to the new location. My cube opening is now in what I call, a transition hallway. So it's very easy for people to just stop by and talking to me about something that isn't work related. I haven't figured out how to solve this issue yet, but I think the solution will be to make the cost of stopping higher. The way to do that would be to move my cube to another location.

People talking over the cube - This happens maybe once or twice a day. I sit with a group of people that are use to sitting in a bullpen office type of atmosphere. This is a place where if you have a question, you just turn around and ask the person. Everybody around you can hear the question and can add their 2 cents. This use to happen all the time. I had a coworker who could do nothing without asking a question first. So this was an all day thing. That coworker has since moved to another project so this is not a problem anymore. So the best way to solve this is to get your coworker to move another project. Failing that, my way of dealing with it was to get a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones and using them whenever I can't concentrate because someone is talking over the cube wall.

I will admit, nothing here is groundbreaking. This is just how I deal with the issue.


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