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?