Closed September 2017

Clutter Video Tip: 7 Biggest Sources of Interruptions (and What To Do About Them!)

Cutting in is great when you are on the dance floor. Not so much when you are trying to be productive. Interruptions can leave you feeling out of step and scattered. Watch this video to make your work day more productive. That is something to twist and shout about!

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Hi. I’m Lorie Marrero, creator of the Clutter Diet book and on-line program, and today we are [hold on, I am not taking this call, because I’m filming right now] and we are talking today about the seven top sources of interruptions, this being one of the biggest ones, right?

So you may think that the biggest interrupters in your life are your kids, and that could be very true, but today we’re going to talk about interruptions in the workplace. So, let’s start with our phones. So in the office you may have a desk phone as well as your personal cell phone that you’re trying to manage throughout the day. So we want to talk about phone calls and texts and things coming in being managed in a proactive way versus a reactive way. So certainly, you can manage this with your personal cell phone, and you can have policies throughout the day of how you respond to this phone, but on your desk phone you may have a job where it’s not possible, where you are supposed to answer every single call that comes through, so you may have to be more reactive to your phone calls. But I would like to recommend that you have what we call “TOP” time every day, which is “Targeted On-task Proactive” time. It can be an hour, it can be 15 minutes, whatever you’ve got, where you do not allow any interruptions, you don’t do e-mail, and you pick something very intentional to work on and concentrate on for that period alone. So think about how you’re using your phone and make those improvements when you can.

Secondly, let’s talk about unscheduled discussions and conversations. Now, these can be very productive conversations, problem-solving, about issues that are going on. These conversations need to happen in the workplace. But there may be better times for them to happen for your productivity. So you can handle that a couple of different ways. First, you can have a narrow window of time that you allow those conversations during the day. So you can have an open-door policy from this hour to this hour, and then the rest of the day, people are not really allowed to approach you. This is obviously dependent on the kind of job you have. You can also flip that and you can say that people are allowed to approach you all day long, “Except for during my TOP time.” So, “During my Targeted On-task Proactive time, this hour of the day,” you can let people know, you can put a sign on the door, ”you cannot interrupt me at this time.” So think about which of those ways will work best for you to avoid those conversations when it is detrimental to your productivity.

Now, thirdly, there is another kind of conversation that is not productive – it is fun, and it is part of the workplace – but it is social chat. It’s the just, you know, catching-up-on-the-weekend kind of stuff. It’s all valuable in its own way, but excessively, it can certainly impact your productivity. So, one of the best things to do about social chat is to stand up when people enter your office or cubicle. This gives a clear signal that you are, first of all, greeting them very graciously, but you have other things to do. So you’re not going to sit down and chat, you’re going to stand up and have a purposeful conversation, and continue what you’re doing. Also, make sure that you’re avoiding having social magnets in your work area. So, if you have a bowl of candy on your desk or some really cushy comfortable beanbag chairs or something, you are inviting that social chat more than you realize.

So the next kind of chat is instant messaging. Again, it can be a very productive tool in the workplace. My assistant and I are constantly chatting on instant message. But we use it in a very productive way. We do make each other laugh and all of that, but we keep that within balance. There are going to be some people in your workplace that don’t keep it within balance, and they don’t have any sense of the right timing and the right frequency for these kinds of chats. So, if you have those kinds of situations, make policies at your workplace, in your workplace, and have those conversations, and also remember to set your status to away if you’re having your TOP time and you need to focus.

Speaking of focus, number five, e-mail. It’s probably one of the biggest thieves of productivity, because we have a habit of checking it all day long. So first thing, you want to turn off the notifications that are telling you that you have a new e-mail. If you’re responding every time you hear a little ding, then that’s your first clue that you need to get more proactive with this whole situation. Your inbox can be sorted at regular intervals throughout the day and not continuously and constantly.

Number six. Random thoughts. This is a big interruption that we control ourselves but, you know, it happens. And so we’re working on a project and we think, “Oh, I’ve got to pick up Suzie on Friday,” or whatever has to happen, or, “I have to buy milk at the store,” whatever it is. What you want to do while you’re working, especially during your TOP time, is when you have these random thoughts, have your capturing tools nearby. Your task list, your calendar, and any other reference information capturing tools like Evernote, so that you can quickly put that information where it belongs, park it, and continue back on the track you were on.

And finally, number seven of the biggest interruptions, auditory and visual distractions. So sticky notes. These are used for good and used for evil. These things can be used as a reminder very effectively, but at some point, it ceases to be a reminder, and it kind of becomes wallpaper in your office. And I’ve seen some extreme cases like these on your screen, and these are just jokes, but, you know, you can get carried away with the sticky notes is the point. So make sure if you use these, you use them sparingly so they really do serve the purpose of getting attention and not becoming wallpaper and becoming permanent distractions.

You may have a noise issue. You may have a lot of cubicles around you. You might need a white noise machine, or you might even need headphones. And you might need policies in your company about the kinds of noises that are going on. So make sure that you take note of what is distracting you during the day, make sure that if it’s something you can control, that you put some controls on it.

And we’d like to remind you that if you like this information, we sure have fun making the videos, we’d love for you to subscribe to our channel right here at We hope you love it. We’d love to see your comments and interact with you more often.

See you next time, and may you always be happy and grateful for having more than enough.

You may have been searching for how to be more productive at work or tips to avoid distractions in the workday.

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