What’s distracting you from work this week? (iii)

This post is the third in a series of posts I am writing this month on how to deal with distractions at work. If you have not read the earlier posts, you can read them here and here. Today’s post will focus on how to deal with distractions from coworkers and friends.

Everyone has that co-worker who drops by to say hi and magically stays to chat for an hour. You might have a friend that drops by your workplace unannounced and expects you to listen to their problems? We are social creatures who want to connect and have positive relationships with people. The people you work with are part of your professional network. You will often need their input at some point if you are to be effective at the job you do. It will be a bad idea to alienate them. Your friends also represent an important part of your network. Hanging out on your own can be dreadfully dull.

A empty stretch of road
No one wants to walk alone

All these are legitimate reasons to maintain good relationships with people. However, it becomes a problem if your co-worker or friend is becoming the distraction that stops you from working on your most important task of the day. You need to take steps to stop people disturbing you when you would rather work.

You can send a signal that you would rather not be disturbed by simply popping in an earpiece. The sight of someone with an earpiece often discourages people from starting conversations unless they have to. They assume you are listening to something and would rather not be disturbed. If you are allowed to at your place of work, simply plug in an earpiece and get busy on your next task. You don’t even have to be listening to anything on it.

A smiling person with an earpiece plugged in
Plug and Work

If one of your co-workers always says ‘Hi’ before launching into an hour long conversation, get into the habit of telling them calmly but firmly “I will be happy to discuss that with you but I am busy right now. I need to work on x. I will be happy to hear you out once I am done. Why don’t I visit you later/Why don’t I meet you over lunch?” Most people will take the hint and find someone else to talk to.

Talk to your friends about not visiting you at work. If someone drops by unannounced, don’t make them too comfortable. If you have a water dispenser, drag them there and ask them what they want. Or you could meet with them outside the office. People have a way of coming to the point when they realise you won’t ask them to sit. If it’s something that will take a lot of time you can’t afford at the moment, ask to meet with your friend after work. That way, you can give them your undivided attention without having to feel guilty.

An image of a water dispenser
Standing conversations tend to be brief

To recap:

  1. Plug in an earpiece. It discourages conversation.
  2. Let your co-worker know you will seek them out during lunch break.
  3. Don’t encourage your friends to visit you at work.

Next week, I will be writing about dealing with distractions from family. That requires a different kind of tactic than the chatty co-worker. Be sure to check it out next Thursday.

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