Time Management and The Interrupting Cow: Manage Interruptions In the Office or at Home

interrupting cow



“Knock Knock!”

“Who’s There?”

“The Interrupting Cow.”

“The interrupting Cow wh—-“



Sure, an oldie but not quite a moldy. And it is a fun way to talk about a real annoyance of Time Management: Interruptions that seem out of your control.   This next post about Time Management this month is recognizing and controlling interruptions when you need to focus.  


Interruptions can really derail your productivity. We all know this. Not only do they take away from your time, but they distract your mind from being able to focus and pay attention to the areas that mattered to you before the interruption came along.   Whether you’re working in an office or trying to get things done at home, here are 6 different types of interruptions, and how to manage them better


  • You’re too plugged in: 
    • Phone, email, Facebook, texting, and so on….  Unless you’re in a job or life situation in which you truly need to be accessed and to respond on a moment’s notice, keep your phone or computer in “Do not disturb” mode.  Even if just for 30 minutes at a time. You’d be surprised how often what you think is just background commotion really does distract you away from what you’re focusing on, and how unnecessary every single one of those pings were. 


  • You’re a victim of the Pop-In:    Someone stopping in to chat (at the office or at home).  If your door is open, and maybe even if it isn’t, you probably know the “Hey, got a sec?” conversation rarely lasts “a sec”. 
    • Glance at your clock when they ask. Make sure your visitor sees you doing it. It sends a message that you’re keeping track of your time. 
    • Have a ready statement that you can use, if you’re truly trying to manage your distraction time: “I have 5 minutes — is this something that we can start and finish in that period of time? If not, let’s schedule something so that we can be sure to give it the best attention.”  or “I’m in the middle of something that really needs my attention for a few more minutes. Is your question something that can wait a bit?    And when 5 minutes are up, tell them. 
    • Keep your door closed when you really need to focus. If you’re rarely a door-closer, people will know that it’s a specific sign. 


  • You think Multitasking is a real thing, and that you’re good at it:
    • You think you’re doing lots of things at once, successfully, but when you keep toggling your mind from task to task, things get lost in the fray. Everything from “now, where was I?” to “Shoot… I totally missed that step!” shifting focus and attention doesn’t really come with a fool-proof pause button when you switch from task to task. Remember: jugglers aren’t doing 3 things at once. They’re doing ONE thing with extreme focus. That’s why they’re good at it.  Focus on one thing at a time, complete it or come to a sensible pause point, and then toggle to the next part of your brain, if you must. 


  • You struggle to get back on track after an interruption:
    • If you do find yourself interrupted, do what you can to make sure you minimize the challenge of getting refocused after the distraction. Make a note to yourself —  where you were in the task, what you were doing, and what you were about to do next. Maximize your ramp up to productivity following an interruption.  And get back to it… don’t say, “Well, I’ve already been interrupted; might as well run to Starbucks now before buckling back down.”  


  • You send mixed signals about how you want to be treated:
    • Be a role model for how you want to be treated:  If you’re going to expect that others are going to respect your time management needs, then make sure you do the same thing. Always ask “is this a good time, or should we set a different time to talk?”  If someone says, “I have 5 minutes,” do your part in making sure you stick to the time you were given. And leave the “Hey!  You gotta see this YouTube video I just saw!” interruptions out of other people’s most productive times. 


  • You’re not doing what you can to control your own environment:
    • Wear headphones (noise blocking)
    • Have a “Do not disturb” sign to hang on your door or something fun like, a “Quiet, Please: The Magic is Happening” sign hanging in your cube. 
    • If your current space isn’t working for you, find another one, without the same distractions
    • If you’re in a shared-calendar environment, block your calendar for “unavailable” times, so that people can check it and know how to work around it.


So, now that you just read this post – which may have been an interruption in your day – what will you do differently tomorrow to make your day more productive and less stressful??






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