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Keep interruptions at bay

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in Office Management,Time Management

Having trouble staying focused because you're constantly interrupted? Here are some tips from consultant Laura Stack ("The Productivity Pro"):

Send a signal. Agree with your team members on a signal that means "I'm here, but try not to bother me." (As opposed to times when you really aren't available.) It could be partially closing your door (if you have one), sticking a flag up outside your cubicle, turning a light on or off—or whatever works for you. Just make sure it's nonverbal and that you use it consistently. But don't abuse it; if you're never available, Stack notes, people will simply ignore the signal.

Designate "check-in" and "check-out" times. If you're frequently in meetings or away from your desk, Stack notes, "perhaps people are interrupting you because they know they must grab you when they can." A solution is to schedule regular check-in times with your people to bring issues to your attention. Similarly, you can also schedule check-out times when it's understood you won't be answering the phone, attending meetings or receiving visitors at all.

Don't interrupt yourself. When you need to focus, don't let any task—no matter how small—get in the way. Be rigorous about using your to-do lists; as soon as you think of something you need to do, write it down (and note when you're going to do it), then turn your attention back to your main work. The same goes for answering e-mails and phone calls. Set aside time at the end of the day to respond. Designating a time to handle these other tasks helps reduce anxiety.

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