Technology often makes it easy to signal when you don’t want to be bothered. You can toggle on “do not disturb” features if you use an iPhone and anyone who tries to text you will be notified, for instance, that you’re not going to see their message right away. You can wear headphones and people get the idea that you’re otherwise occupied. But what about when you’re working in your home or office? How can you show you’re in the zone on a project or need some solo time without needing to tell everyone who wanders by? Here are a few ideas.
What to say if someone interrupts you at work
In the event someone does encroach on your productivity, know what you’ll say: Come up with something in advance but keep it direct and simple. You can try, “Hey, I’m tied up at the moment, but I’ll reach out to you when I’m done in about an hour.”
Don’t ask if you can reach out later or if the issue can wait; that just gives the other person an opportunity to jump in and say their need is urgent. Rather, give them a clear timeline of when they can expect to hear from you — this works on Slack, in email, and in person.
Use pre-establish signals
To avoid having to explain you’re busy in the moment, pre-establish some signals with your colleagues, family members, roommates, or whoever else in advance. A few options can look like this:
- When your door is closed, it means you’re busy.
- When you have a sticky note on your computer monitor, it means you’re busy.
- When a certain item (like a mood-indicating plushie) is on your desk, it means you’re busy.
- When you work from home, it means you’re busy and will only field necessary and urgent messages.
Whatever you come up with, explain it in advance to the people who are going to see it. A plushie on your desk doesn’t mean much to someone who hasn’t been briefed.
There is an inexpensive, tech-based option you can look into, too: A busy light. It’s a small LED flag that attaches to your computer monitor or desk and features the ability to change colours. Red can mean you’re busy, green can mean it’s cool to talk to you, and blue can mean you’re working but available for urgent needs
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