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Eight Tips for Dealing with Interruptions

Tags:  Productivity

You are sitting at your desk, working diligently, when you are interrupted by a coworker who wants to catch you up on the latest gossip or, better yet, needs your help with a work-related problem. What do you do?


While most people should respond based on their current priority, many feel compelled to listen to their coworker out of courtesy. Here's when you need to consider what is best for everyone and make a choice. If what your coworker – or even your significant other – has to say right this minute is important or can be said quickly, then you might want to give a listen. However, if the interruption is negatively impacting your ability to meet your deadlines, then here are eight tips for dealing with unnecessary interruptions.


TIP 1: It's All in the Response


How you respond to someone will go a long way in maintaining the relationship. Instead of snapping at them or taking their head off, take a few seconds to respond in an empathetic and sincere way, and then offer an alternative time to talk. If it's a coworker, maybe the two of you could meet up over a lunch or at break time. If it's a personal relationship, offer to catch up with them in fifteen minutes or another appropriate amount of time.


TIP 2: Discourage People from Interrupting


In order to let coworkers know that you're busy, you may want to close your door (if you're in an office) or post a sign on the outside of your cubicle requesting no interruptions. Or you might consider hanging a white board or message pad on the outside wall for people to leave their messages when you're otherwise engaged. If this doesn't work, you may need to hold up a hand, shake your head and/or even whisper ""Not now.""


TIP 3: Don't Allow Yourself to be Interrupted


If you have someone at your job that never seems to take the hint, then maybe you should just keep on working. Glance up, smile and then go back to work. You may want to agree occasionally as you continue to power through the project you're working on, but don't slow down.


TIP 4: Make Your Work Area Uninteresting to Others


Don't make your cubicle or office a haven for escape. If you have a comfortable space with nice chairs, beautiful plants, and a container filled with candy, you're just asking for visitors. Instead make your space all about function. Yes, you can have personal items, but don't make it so inviting that others want to join you.


TIP 5: Arrange Your Space Appropriately


While you are making your space less comfortable for unwanted visitors, you might also want to consider how your furniture is arranged. Do you have an easy exit or are your trapped behind your desk? You might want to consider rearranging the furniture. Do you have a coworker who always comes in and plops himself down in your extra chair? Consider removing it so there is no place to sit.


TIP 6: Get a Move On


If there are coworkers who regularly interrupt because that's the way they operate, then move. Not to a new cubicle or office, but when they approach. If you stand up and walk away or excuse yourself to go to the restroom, you effectively cut off their ability to interrupt you.


TIP 7: It's the Boss


What happens if the person who always interrupts is your boss? Now your diplomacy skills will really come into play. If you have a boss who always interrupts your work, you can continue to allow it to happen or you can help him understand his impact on your ability to complete your work. Acknowledge his need to speak with you while pointing out the deadline he has placed on your project then suggest the two of you talk later or that he give you an extension on your deadline.


TIP 8: Just Say ""No""


You may find that at the end of the day, there are people who just don't get it. For those who regularly interrupt without thinking, sit them down and ask them not to. You don't have to be mean, just firm. Let them know that you enjoy speaking with them, but they need to learn to be considerate of your time.


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