uninterrupted time at work

Today's post is inspired by reader Julie, who wrote in to ask, "Do you have any hints for finding uninterrupted time? That is always the biggest challenge, especially with a manager who has a crisis of the hour, let alone the crisis of the day." The answer I gave her may help you out at work, too. Here it is:

  • Coworkers: In an office environment, it helps to manage others' expectations of your availability. Some people schedule out a "busy" hour in their shared calendars and, during that hour, they put on headphones, shut their door, ignore the phone and are otherwise absent. Over time, teammates learn that it's not worth trying to disturb Joe from 1 to 2 p.m. because his door is shut and he's not answering emails.
  • Manager(s): Manager scenarios can be a bit tougher, because you want to appear available and ready to please. I have a hands-on personality and don't fear conflict, but I found that just a simple reminder and affirmation of the latest crisis on the priority list worked wonders.For example, if I was working on Project X and my manager came in with Emergency A, I would say something like, "My understanding is that Project X needs to be finished ASAP, so I've been spending my morning on that. Should I shift my focus and work on Emergency A?" If he or she says yes, you've cut yourself some slack on finishing the project. If your manager says no, the crisis is not mission-critical, and you've granted yourself some time before starting work on it.

Have a burning productivity question? Ask away!

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