Jason Fried, president of 37signals, thinks offices are “interruption factories.” He doesn’t blame people for preferring to work at home or the coffee shop; he blames the office. Oh, please. The office is a collection of people, and it is people—not a building or a collection of desks and chairs—that set expectations for how quickly workers should respond to messages and establish norms for if, when, and how it’s okay to interrupt. In fairness, Fried does offer some interesting solutions, all of which involve changing norms. (Lots of luck.)
Until that happens, here’s how you can cut interruptions in half: Stop giving in to distraction. That’s right. Research shows that half the time we interrupt ourselves to check e-mail, the weather, or (lord help us) kittycam.net. It also shows that, once we are distracted, we don’t get back on track for 25 minutes.
I recently scribbled this on a Post-It note and stuck it to my computer: Can you really afford to waste 25 minutes? I’m not sure how much good it will do, but it’s a start.