You know when you get into that flow at work, where what needs to get done pours out of your like water from a tap? You’re in the zone and focused. You and the work inhabit a bubble of time and space without interruption.
When was the last time you were in that bubble? With so many internal and external interruptions coming at most of us all day long, it’s probably been a while. External interruptions are things like other people calling, texting, emailing or walking up to our desk. Internal ones include the compulsive need to check social media, or have a quick peek at the headlines, or whatever it is you fill your personal distraction glass with.
Small interruptions lead to extended production delays
When you are in the zone you are focusing all your energies and thoughts on the task at hand. When an interruption breaks the flow it’s like taking a pair of scissors and cutting all the threads of communication pouring into your head with a single snip.
The time dedicated to dealing with the interruption isn’t restricted to however long it takes to death with whatever Hans came in to ask you. The bigger problem is the break of flow. All the time it takes to gather all the threads of thought back together.
Of course, interruptions to your flow are inevitable. There will always be matters that must be dealt with immediately. However, a great majority of the things that stop our flow aren’t urgent enough to require our immediate attention. By setting boundaries with our co-workers and ourselves we can allow ourselves to get into the flow zone more often and stay there.
Let your coworkers know you don’t want to be interrupted
If people don’t know you want uninterrupted work time, there is nothing stopping them from coming in and interrupting with things that can wait. So, let them know. Set all your alerts to silent. Leave an outgoing message on your phone saying you are busy and will return calls when you are free again. Same thing for emails.
If you have an office with a door put a do not disturb sign on it, if not put a sign on your desk. The do not disturb sign (or whatever words you use) might feel weird the first time you put it up. But you’ll get over it, especially once you see how much you’re accomplishing.
Stop interrupting yourself
For many of us the worst interrupter of our flow isn’t other people, it’s ourselves. Now that you’ve got your email alerts and your phone silenced, it’s up to you to stop yourself from compulsively checking them on your own every couple of minutes. Set yourself time boundaries. Say I will work on this project for one hour. And stick to it.
Beyond that, close open tabs on your computer. If you can work offline do it. When the internet is two or three clicks away instead of only one it’s a little easier to stay clear of.
It’s impossible to get into the flow of one thing if you are trying to do more than one thing at once. Multi-tasking is the bane of productivity. Focus on what you need to get done, one thing at a time.