How to handle interruptions at work like a pro

Imagine you have a looming deadline for an important project at work. 

As you sit down to work, your phone starts buzzing. The boss drops by to discuss something urgent, but not relevant to your task. A colleague wants your quick inputs on a proposal.

As the day progresses, you find yourself increasingly distracted by the constant interruptions. Despite your best efforts, you have not made one bit of progress.

You leave it for tomorrow. Tomorrow, you’re going to finish the project.

Sounds familiar?

Constant interruptions have unfortunately become the defining feature of a fast-paced modern work environment. How can you get anything done in the midst of this frenzy?

In this article, I am going to talk about a few strategies to deal with interruptions and boost your productivity.

There are 3 common types of interruptions you’d be dealing with on a regular basis:

  • From other people
  • From your devices
  • From within yourself

Interruptions from other people

In a typical office setting, this is a fairly common and unavoidable type of interruption for practically everyone.

Colleagues or bosses drop by for a quick chat, ask for your input or approval, or provide you with feedback. While these interactions are essential, they can disrupt your work progress.

Dealing with people interruptions

Here are a few things you can try to minimize interruptions from people.

Set clear boundaries

Communicate politely but assertively with colleagues about your availability and the importance of the task at hand. Decide on informal office hours where you will make yourself available to discuss or brainstorm as needed.

For instance, if you are working on a time-sensitive project, you can inform your colleagues that you will not be available for non-urgent discussions until after a specific deadline. 

Setting clear boundaries and expectations go a long way in minimizing the number of interruptions that you receive, and managing the ones that do occur more effectively.

Inform your boss

Get a buy-in from your boss about how you would like a few uninterrupted hours to focus on the task. Request their input and clarify any doubts. Ask if they have any requests or concerns that require immediate attention. 

Once you have their buy-in, you can concentrate on the project and deliver high-quality work while showing your boss your dedication and professionalism.

Have short morning sync meetings 

Short morning sync meetings are great to get everyone on top of their tasks and projects. Keep it short – 15 minutes should do the trick. Hold the meeting at the same time each day to establish a routine.

During the meeting, team members can share updates on their progress and discuss any issues or roadblocks they are facing. All necessary information for the day is exchanged during this time, eliminating the need for further interruptions. 

By starting the day with a clear understanding of priorities and expectations, not just you, but all team members can work more efficiently and effectively.

Set a Do Not Disturb sign

To minimize disruptions, consider keeping your office door closed and using a “do not disturb” sign when you need uninterrupted time. If you work in an open office, try wearing headphones as a signal that you don’t want to be disturbed. 

This informs your colleagues that you are currently occupied with something important and may not be available for a chat or to respond to messages immediately. 

Don’t be afraid to communicate honestly with your coworkers about your need for focus and concentration. In fact, you may inspire others to follow the same practice, especially if they recognize the value of uninterrupted work. 

Additionally, since you have your boss’s approval already, there is no need to worry about upsetting anyone.

Interruptions from devices

We’re constantly inundated with emails, texts, social media notifications, and phone calls. Our devices are pinging with notifications all the time. 

Not to mention we always use our phones for tasks like setting reminders, checking our schedules, listening to podcasts, or even shopping. 

We’ve become dependent and addicted to our devices. No surprise.

The down side is increased stress, loss of productivity, and inability to focus.

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Dealing with device interruptions

Try these to deal with interruptions from your devices at work:

Turn off notifications

Turn off notifications for non-essential applications, such as social media apps, personal email notifications, or instant messaging apps. Keep the phone on silent mode.

For emergency situations, keep one number (maybe that of your family member) open, and allow those notifications to come through. Inform your loved ones not to call unless it’s an emergency. You may also give them your office front desk number.

Schedule specific time to check messages

Schedule specific times to check your email and messages, instead of constantly checking them throughout the day.

Decide on the frequency as needed. You could check email for 5 minutes every hour, or for 30 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening.

The duration and frequency depends on your needs. What’s important is setting the rule, so you may work peacefully for the rest of the time, with focus.

Create a conducive work environment 

Create a workspace that is free from visual and auditory distractions. If your work environment is noisy or busy, noise-canceling headphones can be a valuable tool for minimizing interruptions.

Keep the workspace organized and clutter free so you don’t spend time hunting for things on your desk.

Leave your own devices out of sight so you are not tempted to check them and get distracted.

Use a site blocker

Using site blockers can eliminate distractions before they occur. Site blockers are software programs or browser extensions that can prevent access to specific websites, apps, or social media platforms that may be time-consuming or distracting.

I use a browser extension called Pause which starts a countdown of 5 seconds before opening the website. I find that this pause of 5 seconds is often helpful for me to become mindful and get back to more important things.

Internal distractions

Internal distractions, such as intrusive thoughts, self-doubt, and mental fatigue, can be just as disruptive to your productivity as external interruptions. 

These distractions can be especially challenging to manage since they are often self-generated and can quickly spiral out of control. 

Dealing with internal distractions

The following techniques can be useful in dealing with internal distractions:

Practise mindfulness techniques

Mindfulness involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment without judgment or distraction. It helps you to be more present and focused on the task at hand. 

You can practice mindfulness by engaging in meditation or deep breathing exercises. 

Set specific times for breaks

Taking regular breaks can help to clear your mind, recharge your energy, and improve your overall performance. 

Take breaks at specific intervals throughout the day, such as every hour or every two hours, to avoid burnout and maintain focus. During these breaks, you go for a short walk, listen to music etc. Do something that will clear your head and relax you. 

Take care of yourself

Taking care of yourself is essential to overcoming internal distractions. Stay hydrated, eat healthy, and get enough rest to ensure your mind and body are functioning optimally. 

Getting enough rest is also crucial to staying focused and productive. Aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and establish a regular sleep routine to help you wind down and prepare for a restful night’s sleep. 


Interruptions at work cannot be completely eliminated. However, I hope some of the above tips have been helpful for you to minimize distractions and stay productive.

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