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Amr Elgarhy
Amr Elgarhy

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Some of them want to Interrupt you, Some of them want to be Interrupted

Interruptions at work can be maddening. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found after careful observation that the typical office worker is interrupted or switches tasks, on average, every three minutes and five seconds. And it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds just to get back to where they left off. Jonathan Spira, author of “Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization,” estimates that interruptions and information overload eat up 28 billion wasted hours a year, at a loss of almost $1 trillion to the U.S. economy.

Quite few years since this research released, can you imagine 23 minutes to get back to your focus mode? there are hundreds of articles, statistics and books written about this workplace interruptions issue.

But you know what scares me more than getting interrupted? it is getting used to be interrupted!

Let me tell you a small story I used to have everyday with my kids, till I finally managed to fix it:

Few years ago I used to work from home, kids where little, you can’t control them, especially after meals when they are fully charged.

At night they keep distracting me, I say please go, I go play few minutes with them then back, then they come back again, I hope they go sleep so that I can start real focus.

Finally after few hours of going back and forth, they sleep, wahooo, you know what I do just after they go bed? I go to bed as well.

I got used on working with interruptions, getting rid of interruptions start to be my main task, when I finish it, I am finished!

It happens in workplaces, and imagine that you are working in a workplace full of interruptions, for more than a year!

You will get used on that, getting rid of these interruptions turns to be a dream to accomplish, a task that you please if you managed to sort it out will make you the most productive person in the world.

But in-fact, this usually doesn’t happen in the same workplace, same office. same company. At least it is hard to change.

Interruptions you have around you for long time made you addicted to them, You hate them but used on.

They have killed your productivity :(

Few examples of Interruptions:

  • It happen when your office is between or next to people who doesn’t work in your team or department — silly questions in wrong times, could you please help doing this or that? which any one else in the work can do.
  • A manager who loves meetings, he needs all employees to sit beside him all the day talking talking talking.
  • A muscled employee who deal with his computer and keyboard as if he is in the gym or as if he is a rabbit typing on a typewriter.
  • Cleaning — yes, believe me it happens, suddenly they decide to clean your desk on Monday at 10 am.
  • And many many many others you do it or allow them by yourself, email notifications, mobile phones on desk, not having your headphones in a busy office, saying yes immediately to any asking for help or question

From my own experience to change this environment of interruptions

The hard way — Change the rules:

  • Buy a headphone.
  • Learn to say sorry, I can’t do it right now.
  • Put a status message on your desk and messengers that you are not available at the moment.
  • Move your desk.
  • Emails, notifications, phones,… we know what do here, aren’t we?
  • Hint: don’t discuss it with your colleges or managers, just put your rules and act on them.

The other way — still hard but more effective — Change everything:

Sometimes the problem is bigger than you, it is a company or office way of working and they will never change it, start thinking to move (another office, team, or even leave the company)

Finally, to get interrupted is a problem, but to be addicted to be interrupted is a disaster, in your career life you may waste years of efforts because of this disaster, ask your self: do want to be Interrupted? are sure you will be ok and 100% productive after getting ride of these interruptions?

Share your ideas:

  • What other distractions you have in your workplace?
  • Did you get used on the interruptions?
  • Do you interrupt other people? (it is normal, we all do but with different percentages)
  • What other creative solutions you have done to get rid of these interruptions?

* Before I end the article just wanted to get back to the work from home and kids issue, my advice is:

Never ever say that kids are distracting you, this is purely your problem and they have nothing to do about it, most of the time the answer to this problem is that you shouldn’t be working now, spend time with them better, again don’t blame others for your mistakes.

** I got the idea of this post while reading Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

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