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Productivity Tips: More Tips for Avoiding Interruptions

Some tasks, like creative work, writing, and research, require blocks of uninterrupted time when you can concentrate exclusively on one topic. Interruptions can especially be a problem if you have multiple people working from home at the same time.

Previously, we outlined five tips for preventing interruptions while you work. Here are six more interruption-busting ideas to help you work more effectively:

desk for focused work

Get Everything You Need

Get any supplies you might need — like coffee and reference materials — before you start. Every time you have to leave your desk, you increase the odds that someone will waylay you with a question or just to chat.

Use Ear Plugs

If noise bothers you, try ear plugs. This solution may not be acceptable in an office environment, but works well at home. Although they don't eliminate outside noise, they muffle it and can be a big help if you're trying to work while a group of kids is playing ball next door or someone is snoring in the next room.

Don't Have Chairs

Don't include any extra chairs in your office, so co-workers won't be tempted to come in, sit down, and chat. This works for home offices too, to discourage family members from settling in.

Avoid Eye Contact

If you're in the office or working from home with other people, avoid eye contact by facing your desk away from the door. If you can't move your desk, block your view with a plant or screen.

If you're in a public place, like a library, choose a spot that faces a wall. If you're easily distracted, facing a window is probably not a good choice.

If someone comes in and starts talking to you, try to answer them briefly without facing them. Send the message that you're busy. This may seem rude, but remember that your work is important, and it was rude for them to come in and interrupt while you were working.

Keep Early or Late Hours

Working early in the morning before family members rise or late at night after they go to bed works for many people. Personally, I prefer nighttime when it's quiet, the phones aren't ringing, and the neighbor kids aren't playing outside.

For the office environment, many companies allow employees to keep "flex time". You can reduce interruptions by starting work earlier than others or by staying later.

Anticipate Interruptions

Consider what events could possibly interrupt you and head them off before you start work. Give yourself a time block with nothing else scheduled or expected. For example, if you are expecting a phone call, take care of it before getting absorbed in your work.

Protect your time by planning ahead.