Article by Beverly Beuermann-King posted last December on the Work Smart Live Smart blog.


In the third post of the Work Smart Live Smart series on navigating the year-end season, today we'll talk about work interruptions and how they affect our productivity. It happened to all of us; the office is quiet, and you are prepared to take advantage of it to get caught up on your work. The phone rings. You sigh.

According to Fast Company, the average office worker is interrupted and taken off task every 11 minutes. Even worse, they say that it takes basically that much time to refocus on the task at hand. Often, we end up compensating for interruptions by working faster and harder, which results in us experiencing more stress. We need to find ways to avoid interruptions at work.

Interruptions happen, but often, we make them even more stressful by our interpretation of the interruption.

We get frustrated, patient, annoyed, angry, defeated. The key to avoiding interruptions at work is to find productive ways to minimize and deal with them and keep our emotions in check.

How Do We Handle Interruptions?

1. Plan for Interruptions

Know the type of interruptions that you usually encounter and when they are most likely to occur. Most interruptions are not totally unexpected. They are usually a normal part of our job.

2. Limit the Opportunities for People to Distract You

If you need time to concentrate on a particular task, block it off in your schedule and let colleagues know that you are not available until a certain time. Turn off your phone and your email notifications. Shut the door. Book a meeting room just for yourself.

3. Take Control

Take control of technology, especially social media and email, that are enticing in nature.

4. Put an End to the Interruption of a Chatty Co-Worker

Put an end to the interruption of a chatty co-worker by being social at break times and lunch hours, which will minimize social visits during your work time.

5. Be Realistic

Be realistic in planning the time it takes to complete various tasks. Many of us are good at underestimating the time tasks take and overestimating the amount of work that we can accomplish in a given day.

6. Prioritize your Daily To-Do List

Prioritize your daily to-do list, and if you do get interrupted, ALWAYS go back to where you were before the interruption. Try to regain and gather back your thoughts and ideas from the point where you left off.

7. Watch for Your Own Personal Interrupters

A messy desk, hunger, thirst and curiosity all get in our own way of being as productive as we can. Organize yourself prior to starting your focused time, not during it.


Check the first two posts of this three-part series on how to navigate the stress that comes with the year-end season!

Balancing Resilience and Office Hours: Leaving The Office Early

Strategies From a Wellness Expert For Managing Stress In The Workplace

Do you feel that you have several interruptions throughout the working day, or is it not a difficulty that affects you?

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