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Hey, got a Second? How to Stop Being an Interruption Magnet

If you feel like interruptions are constantly holding you back at work then it may be time to admit you have a problem. You’re an interruption magnet.

Yes, distractions aren’t always your fault. But if you frequently struggle to make headway on priority tasks due to phone calls, passing co-workers, email, and other various distractions, it’s possible that you are inviting these work-stopping moments into your world.

For some it’s a form of procrastination, while others simply fail to protect their priorities. The good news is, there’s a fix for changing your interruption polarity. It begins by learning to close your door… both physically and mentally.

Try these tips for minimizing your exposure to interruptions:

    • Task Hours
      Each day, schedule two separate “task hours” when you can close your office door. Hold yourself personally responsible for staying focused on one specific task or project during this time.


  • The Critical 2
    Identify two super-critical tasks where undivided attention is a priority. Do this each morning by making a to-do list and prioritizing the various activities – separate what you “must do” from what you “should do but isn’t vital today.”



  • Protect your priorities.
    Even if it’s your specific job to answer to the requests of others, you must define what is in the best interest of reaching your company goals. When a new request is made, take a minute to determine how it compares to the important tasks in your daily plan.



  • Don’t be a “fixer.”
    Some people just can’t say no. They make themselves constantly available to others as a means of boosting job security or feeling validated at work. In the end, it devalues their time and leaves their to-do list full.



  • Communicate your limited availability
    Don’t be bashful about this. Tell your co-workers by email or with a sign on the door; specify options for reaching you with urgent matters during this time.



  • Automate
    Shut off your phone’s ringer and create a custom voicemail greeting that details your availability. Include an alternate person to call and what time the caller can expect a return message. People are then rerouted without taking a minute of YOUR time.



  • Avoid the Siren song
    Close your email client to avoid the temptation to check-in every time a little chime or bell goes off. If this isn’t realistic for you, do it on the 30s. Only check email at the:30 and :00 on the clock.



  • Unplug from the internet.
    If possible, shut down any potential distractions by unplugging yourself. If closing your browser doesn’t do the trick, then take the next step and unplug your network cable or shut down your Wi-Fi.


Learning to better manage your interruptions requires minimizing your distractions and disciplining yourself to stay on-task. It doesn’t always come naturally, but when you establish specific work as high-importance you’re giving yourself permission to shut yourself off from interruptions.

Written on 2/15/2011 by Jeff Doubek. Jeff is a productivity expert who writes for the Day-Timer Blog where he offers practical tips for managing your time better and getting more done each week. Photo Credit: bjornmeansbear


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