Dealing with interruptions

Smart phones provide us instant access to a vast array of information and tools which, if used well, benefit our lives in many ways.

For many people though, their phone is the single most ubiquitous source of distractions in their working life. It will reduce how productive and effective you are each day, if you let it.

If you are someone who does creative work for a living, such as writing, coding, designing or drawing, then you can realise huge productivity gains, and produce higher quality work, by take a few moments to eliminate as many distractions as possible before you begin work, even if it’s just for an hour at a time. Firstly:

  • Put your phone in Do Not Disturb mode, switch it off, or leave it in another room

Next:

  • If you work on a Mac, it has the same Do Not Disturb feature, and you can turn it on as well. Look up on the far right corner to open the notifications centre.
  • Close all apps and programs on your computer that you don’t need for the work you are doing right now, especially email and messaging apps. If you work in a web browser, close all of the tabs down except the ones that you need.
  • Shut the door. If you work in an open office with no door to close, put on headphones and play something from brain.fm
  • If your environment can be noisy, using ear plugs make a huge difference. I use ear plugs in combination with headphones playing brain.fm turned up loud (so that the music makes it through the ear plugs).

The whole idea is to completely eliminate interruptions and allow you to get into a state of flow. Some studies have shown that interruptions cost as much as 6 hours per day in productivity and result in higher levels of stress, reduced work enjoyment and poorer work quality.

Once you have dealt with all of the above, you then need to work out arrangements with your boss, colleagues, or other household members (if you work from home) so that you can carve out time in your day where people respect your need for zero interruptions.

Have those conversations now. At the same time reassure people that if there is an emergency, then of course you can be interrupted.

Don’t underestimate how much interruptions are costing you. Your best work is produced in an environment where you can focus on what you are doing without being interrupted, and without allowing distractions to creep in.

If you found this article useful, then also check out How to get stuff done and Your iPhone is killing your productivity.