(Don't) allow me to interrupt

Came across this article recently on Big Think… Why You Can’t Work at Work

Jason Fried believes the modern workplace is optimized for distractions. I can’t entirely disagree. Something he mentions that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to is getting into the work zone. “You show up at work and you sit down and you don’t just immediately begin working, like you have to roll into work. You have to sort of get into a zone, just like you don’t just go to sleep, like you lay down and you go to sleep”. Every interruption means you have to stop dead in your tracks and then ramp back up into that zone when you jump back to your other tasks.

“And the other thing about interruptions and calling people’s names, and ringing them on the phone and stuff, it’s actually really an arrogant sort of move because you’re saying that whatever I have to ask you is more important than what you’re doing. Because I’m going to stop you from doing what you are doing for me to ask you this question that probably doesn’t matter anyway.”

Ummmm…YES. This sounds about right. And we’re all guilty of it. So I’ve had a few thoughts lately on interruptions and how we can work to avoid them.

No cell phone policy in meetings
Multitasking has its benefits and it’s practically a job requirement these days. But in most cases, if you’re checking email on your phone during a meeting it probably means that you’re half paying attention at best. And it begins to create a “distraction culture” to everyone around you. And how many of us have taken a phone call during a meeting and even walked out of the room, missing half the meeting. Then you ask a co-worker to fill you in on what you missed. What a waste of time.

Schedule more “Me Meetings”
Sometimes I’ll get frustrated when I can’t find someone in my office. Later I find out they sneaked off to a huddle or some back corner of the office with their laptop for a few hours to get some real “heads down” work done. With so much focus we give to designing collaborative workplaces, I find it hilarious that sometimes people literally need to hide from their coworkers in order to get anything done. Maybe we too often mistake “collaborative” for “no privacy”.

Show up on time
I’m guilty of this sometimes but still find it ridiculous. I’ll show up on time to a meeting and no one else is there. I’ll wait a few minutes, get bored, maybe go grab a coffee or back to my desk to check a quick email. Then I’ll run into another coworker and and start discussing another project. Suddenly I went from being the first person to the meeting to the guy sneaking in late. Little things like this can add 5, 10, 15 minutes to a meeting. We’re “nickle and diming” ourselves out of leaving work on time.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences and perhaps we can add to this list. Let me know what you’ve got.

6 Comments
  1. May 13th, 2010 - 5:13 am

    This hits the nail on the head! Terrific ideas!

  2. May 14th, 2010 - 6:19 am

    I agree 100% on the no cell phones in meetings. So irritating when someone clearly stops paying attention to you and starts crackberrying. or maybe they’re surfing the web on their iPhone. Of course, I’m guilty of this too!

    When I really need to get some work done, I definitely schedule a work from home day – I find that I get the work done much more quickly and efficiently, even if I do get a little lonely!

  3. May 26th, 2010 - 2:07 pm

    [...] at work?  Made me think of Doug’s earlier post Anti-Collaboration and Mike’s (Don’t) allow me to interrupt, as well as some of the creative support spaces Angie describes in Where’s Waldo [...]

  4. May 28th, 2010 - 9:47 am
    Steve said:

    This hits the nail on the head! Terrific ideas!

  5. June 4th, 2010 - 5:33 pm
    Amy said:

    I agree 100% on the no cell phones in meetings. So irritating when someone clearly stops paying attention to you and starts crackberrying. or maybe they’re surfing the web on their iPhone. Of course, I’m guilty of this too!

    When I really need to get some work done, I definitely schedule a work from home day – I find that I get the work done much more quickly and efficiently, even if I do get a little lonely!

  6. September 29th, 2010 - 4:19 am

    [...] (Don’t) Allow me to Interrupt.  Mike shares some fabulous ideas for cutting back on interruptions in the workplace. [...]

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