Dealing with Interruptions at Work

by Lee Wyatt
(last updated September 18, 2018)

2

Dealing with interruptions at work is one of the most vital, and under taught, office skills around. How often do you have someone, or something, interrupt you during the most inconvenient moments while working on something? When deep in thought, and hard at work, even a minor interruption that only takes a minute or two, can end up costing you ten or fifteen minutes worth of productive work. While this may not seem like much at first glace, but throughout an eight hour workday these interruptions can easily end up costing you an hour or two of productive time. Here are a few strategies that you can use to help you begin dealing with interruptions at work.

  • Set some ground rules. When you are at work, don't be afraid to set up some ground rules for your coworkers. For example, you can create some "office hours" where people can come in and talk to you without an appointment. While this may not work in all situations if you keep to the practice, it will become a habit for your coworkers.
  • Ask how long this will take. Don't be afraid to ask someone how long the conversation will take. You don't need to be rude about it, but by asking for an approximate time length you can determine whether or not you have the spare time to devote to your new task. If you do not have the time at that moment, then ask if they could reschedule for a later time.
  • Does it need your personal attention? If you are getting interrupted for something "important," don't be afraid to ask whether it needs your personal attention or not. You will be surprised at how often it really doesn't. In those situations where it doesn't, then delegate the task to someone else. You could also ask the person who is interrupting you what they think, and if their idea sounds good then you can go with it.
  • Drop clues. Drop subtle hints or clues that you are actually being interrupted in your work. For example, you can leave your office door shut, or hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign outside your workspace. When someone comes into your work area and requests a moment of your time, actually get up from your desk to greet them. By standing up and greeting the person, you can always use going back to your desk as a nonverbal clue that you are finished with the discussion.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...

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What is nine more than 6?

2015-08-27 07:35:17

Kelly W.

These are all good tips. However, as an administrative assistant who sits in a cubicle without a door... AND on a main aisle where EVERYONE passes by (and oftentimes stop to chat), it's very difficult to shut people out and/or avoid interruptions. Interruptions are just part of the job. I have - in a not-so-subtle way at times - been somewhat blunt with people when interrupted for the umpteenth time to check someone's schedule when they could have just IM'd, emailed or called the person to ask their question. Those people have FINALLY gotten the hint and stopped asking. But, any other suggestions for cutting back on interruptions in such a "public" position would be greatly appreciated.


2012-01-27 12:11:17

Patricia McBride

These are great tips. I especially like the one about having 'office hours'. Thanks.


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