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24 Apr

Peace and quiet, or constantly interrupted

Datum: 2017-04-24 12:26

I have not yet met the per­son who nev­er has to work con­cen­trat­ed and undis­turbed with some form of task. And nei­ther have I met the one who does not under­stand that some­one else might need to work unin­ter­rupt­ed from time to time.

But I do meet sev­er­al peo­ple every week who have dif­fi­cul­ties get­ting those moments of unin­ter­rupt­ed peace and qui­et that are so valu­able to us. Thank­ful­ly, many of the dis­tur­bances” are actu­al­ly things we can influ­ence and do some­thing about.

We can turn the e‑mail noti­fi­ca­tion sound off, as well as the lit­tle pre­view-win­dow that pops up at the top of your screen, which oth­er­wise eas­i­ly attracts our atten­tion. We can clean away papers and piles from our work­space so that we do not hap­pen to catch a glance of some­thing that could dis­tract us from what we need to focus on at the moment. We can set our phone to flight mode”, hence ensur­ing that we are not dis­turbed by calls, noti­fi­ca­tions or the phone vibrat­ing to get our attention.

Col­leagues, col­leagues, colleagues …
But turn­ing off” col­leagues is not as easy. One of the most com­mon inter­rup­tions is a col­league pop­ping their head through the door. They might have a ques­tion, need a sig­na­ture, need help with some­thing, or want to dou­ble-check some­thing. Many peo­ple find it dif­fi­cult to say no when a col­league asks Do you have a minute?”, per­haps because some­times we our­selves are that col­league who needs someone’s help. It is there­fore easy to relate to the per­son dis­turb­ing us.

But on the oth­er hand, we are the ones who will suf­fer the con­se­quences of not pri­or­i­tiz­ing our tasks and there­by mak­ing it take longer to com­plete them, since every inter­rup­tion costs us time and concentration.

Every­one is in the same boat
The beau­ty of that every­one needs time to work undis­turbed and that every­one there­fore under­stands this need in oth­ers, is that we are all in the same boat and feel the same in this mat­ter. We share a com­mon chal­lenge and can find solu­tions together.

I can­not say why, but judg­ing from the con­ver­sa­tions I have with par­tic­i­pants from my cours­es and lec­tures, it seems as if we sel­dom speak to our col­leagues con­cern­ing how we can make it clear to one anoth­er if we are avail­able to answer ques­tions or help col­leagues in oth­er ways, or if we need to work undis­turbed at the moment.

Talk about it
So, if you have not done so already and you feel the need to make it clear when you need to be left alone, I would rec­om­mend you to speak to your col­leagues about when to not inter­rupt one anoth­er, per­haps at your week­ly meet­ing, the next depart­ment meet­ing or some oth­er gath­er­ing that would be suit­able for bring­ing up the topic.

Do this

  1. So right now, deter­mine when you will bring up the sub­ject and in which con­text. If you can­not deter­mine when, ask your clos­est col­league when he or she thinks it would be a good time.

  2. Take a few moments to lean back and reflect on the fol­low­ing: How can we make it clear to one anoth­er if we are avail­able or if we do not want to be dis­turbed?”. If you bring a few con­crete sug­ges­tions your­self, it is more like­ly that you all agree on a solu­tion dur­ing the meet­ing. Exam­ples of the solu­tions I have heard through­out the years are:
    • When we have our head­phones on or have earplugs, it means that we do not want to be disturbed.”
    • A closed door means that I need to work uninterrupted.”
    • If we do not wish to be dis­turbed, we light the red light in the traf­fic light” out­side the door.”
    • If we have placed a stuffed ani­mal on top of our com­put­er screen, it is a sig­nal that we want to remain undisturbed.”
    • Every­one has a sign that we have cre­at­ed togeth­er which they place on the desk when they do no wish to be inter­rupt­ed. That way no one has to think of what to say when some­one else asks you something.”
    • We inform our col­leagues if we want to work focused for the next hour. If we for­get to tell them, it is com­plete­ly OK to ignore the ques­tion, hence sig­nal­ing that I for­got to inform about need­ing to concentrate.”
    • We felt that DO NOT DIS­TURB!” sounds harsh, so we paste a much nicer for­mu­lat­ed I‑need-to-work-by-myself-for-a-while-sign on the door to sig­nal that we need alone-time”.

  3. When it is time for the meet­ing, bring it up and ask for a cre­ative dis­cus­sion and brain­storm­ing. I would be sur­prised if your sug­ges­tions are not received with open arms. Dis­cuss and con­clude on what you will do from now on. It could be one of the exam­ples described above, or some­thing com­plete­ly different.

More con­cen­tra­tion with greater ease
If you all agree on how to sig­nal in a clear, pleas­ant and sim­ple man­ner if you are avail­able or not, you will sim­ply be left to work undis­turbed to a greater extent than before. You will even avoid the ques­tion if you are avail­able or not, since you have del­e­gat­ed that com­mu­ni­ca­tion to a sign, an object on your screen or desk, or your head­phones. You will be less dis­tract­ed, be able to con­cen­trate more, and get more things done with greater ease.

What is your signal?
Do you use some oth­er sig­nal? Leave a com­ment below to share your tip.