interruptions: good or bad?

Do you do everything possible to limit the interruptions in your workday? It is part of every productivity training course and philosophy I’ve ever studied. Limit the interruptions in your work day to allow for maximum productivity. As an anywhere / indie / virtual worker, I’ve realized that limiting interruptions may be negatively impacting my productivity and creativity.

favorite interruption busting tricks

What tricks have you learned over the years? I remember the many tricks I used to use while working in a corporate office. My favorites include:

  • No place to sit. Place files or books on the ‘visitor’ chairs in my office/cubicle so people can’t sit down and get comfortable. It didn’t eliminate interruptions, but it sure did limit the time someone spent interrupting me.
  • Can’t talk now. Put on headphones – as if listening to a webinar / teleconference call.
  • Find a hideout. Usually an unused conference room, or a corner in the employee cafeteria.
  • Warning: enter at your own risk. Place piles of work all over the floor, and periodically slamming things on the desk – basically giving off the signal that I was in the middle of a big deadline crisis.
  • I have a meeting. Have a portfolio and pen ready so that as soon as someone comes into your office/cube you get up, grab the portfolio and head off to ‘a meeting’ to which you are late…usually they leave you alone. Of course, now you can’t go back to your office for at least 30 minute. That’s when you go find that conference room.

You get the idea. We put so much energy into avoiding interruptions! What creativity! But what if we look at this differently?

flip interruptions on their head

What if…interruptions were actually a good thing! Oh my! I know, but keep an open mind for just a moment.

What if the person coming over to interrupt you has an answer to a question you’ve been researching? What if something this person says (totally unrelated to your project) inspires an idea for a solution to a current problem?

Maybe it’s better not to avoid interruptions, but to welcome then – and manage them. Don’t go off the deep end and encourage interruptions as a way to procrastinate. Rather, welcome the ones that happen spontaneously. Manage your time, and be open to what these interruptions may bring.

I have found, especially for the anywhere worker, that interruptions can increase productivity. Since one of our goals is to stay connected, interruptions may be the only way we can experience the ‘water cooler’ effect of learning about new opportunities, changes, or brainstorm with colleagues and teammates.

So the next time someone sends you an instant message, pings you on skype, or knocks on your door (physical or virtual) consider they may actually be bringing you the answer or inspiration you need right now. Stay open, stay connected, stay productive.