I keep reading that our economy is now based on thinking rather than material production. We have become an information producing society. In order to end up with our product, information and thoughts, we have to be able to have the environment to make that happen.
This article was inspired by a recent day of constant interruptions that did not need to happen, resulting in me doing almost no productive work that day. After spending six hours answering email, phone calls and instant messages that never should have been brought to my attention, I began to wonder if I unnecessarily disrupt others. I formulated these five ways to not distract others:
1. Respect Boundaries
In a cube farm, there are no doors to be shut. It is easy to talk over the tops of the cubes to ask a quick question. However, I have learned to make visual contact first. If my coworkers have headphones on, I am not going to disrupt them by asking a question. And if it is not earth-shattering, I will leave them alone when I see the headphones.
2. Discover Approachability Limits
One of my coworkers does not want to be approached in the morning with anything short of a complete software failure before he has a chance to quickly read through his email. I do not want to be pulled away from work to discuss non-work subjects (public school problems and car buying strategies included). If you want to chat, either wait until lunch, or ask if it is a good time.
3. Don’t Be Lazy
When you are starting out on a team, it is OK to ask basic questions. Later, don’t distract your team members for the quick-and-easy answers just because you don’t want to take the time to research it yourself. Make a good faith effort to get the information yourself before asking questions.
4. Consolidate Questions
My boss is in constant meetings. Unless the server is on fire, I won’t interrupt his meetings. Instead, I will save up questions and either email them, or set up a meeting to ask them all at once.
5. Use Instant Messenger Sparingly
The business analyst assigned to our team is infamous for sending instant messages that really have nothing to do with work. When he’s bored, he’ll send out messages as he thinks of “witty” things to say, approximately every 45 seconds. So what happens is I will respond to the first one, then close the window, just to have the application keep popping up on top of what I am trying to do. Short of blocking him, I cannot escape this distraction.
Photo by Damek