How to Handle Interruptions at Work

In Brief...

When you need to focus at work, use the following suggestions to help prevent and deal with interruptions.


  1. Let your phone take the message. Voicemail and caller-ids exist for a reason. When working on important tasks that require your complete focus, let phone interruptions go to voicemail. Caller-ids will help you identify emergency calls that you need to attend to immediately. Otherwise, complete your task and then respond to the caller.
  2. Check your email at designated times. Checking your email throughout the day is a sure way of losing focus on a task at hand. While your job may require you to check email regularly, it is generally best to do one thing at a time and to complete one task before moving on to the next. Try to limit yourself to checking email between tasks rather than during tasks. Also, prioritize your responses to the email messages you receive. Answer only those that require immediate action, and respond to other less urgent messages later when you have more time.
  3. Curtail interruptions by your peers with the following techniques:
    • Politely tell your colleague you need to get back to work.
    • Ask your colleague if you can get back to him or her at another time.
    • Work earlier or later in the day when the workplace may be quieter.
    • Shut your office door.
    • Mark yourself as busy on IM.

Author: Janie Sullivan

Janie Sullivan, MBA, MAEd, has been teaching adult learners for over 20 years. She has taught online over 15 years, specializing in writing, communications, and small business applications. Janie directs the Center for Writing Excellence where she offers writing, editing, and formatting services for writers. She has been published in several newspapers and magazines as well as multiple online sites. She teaches communication, business strategy, leadership, and management courses. Janie has published a book "Develop and Deliver an Online Class." This is the third book she has written about writing and teaching online. She also has published a novel and an anthology of short stories.