Use Unplugged Earphones To Avoid Pesky Interruptions

Interruptions can really disrupt your workflow. You spend time dismissing or addressing the person doing the interrupting, and then on regaining your focus. Earbuds, even those not playing anything, are a sneaky defence.

Photo by scot63us.
Using music to block out annoying coworkers is a familiar tactic. Lifehacker reader grgzfla observes that tunes are entirely optional for his own job:

I’ve been known to put them on and stick the other end into an empty pocket just to keep cubical socialites from derailing the stream of consciousness I’m working on! I can ignore their pleas for attention and not generate any hurt feelings. :)

I have a friend who doesn’t own an iPod, but wears the ubiquitous white earbuds nearly everywhere he goes, tucked, as grgzfla suggests, into a pocket. He’s found that people only talk to him if they really have a pressing need. So the headphones function as a passive barrier, sending out a signal that he is otherwise occupied. Strangely, people feel more comfortable interrupting a person who is obviously intently working than a person wearing headphones.

If wearing earbuds is against your office’s rules, what other subtle yet effective techniques could you use to minimise interruptions?